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iPhone 6 won't land in China on launch weekend

China -- the largest smartphone market in the world -- was among the countries that got dibs on the new iPhone for launch weekend last year. The country's exclusion this time around has yet to be explained.

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The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Apple

The iPhone 6 will arrive in several major countries come September 19. China won't be among them, but the reason for its exclusion is a bit of a mystery.

The problem may lie with the Chinese government. Apple's latest iPhone reportedly has not yet received the necessary government approval, according to news reports from China on Wednesday cited by The New York Times. Specifically, China's Ministry for Industry and Information Technology must give the thumbs-up for such devices as smartphones, and no approval for the iPhone 6 appeared on the ministry's website as of Wednesday, the Times noted.

China has become an increasingly lucrative market for mobile device makers as it offers hundreds of millions of potential customers. In late 2011, China topped the US to become the world's largest smartphone market. Apple has deals with all three of China's major carriers -- China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telcom -- providing a substantial source of sales. Apple sold a record number of iPhone 5S units in China during last year's fourth quarter, while the country overall accounted for 16 percent of Apple's $37.4 billion in sales last quarter, according to Bloomberg.

Last year, China was among the list of countries that received the the iPhone 5S and 5C for launch weekend. So this year's delay comes as a surprise. Assuming the lack of government approval is to blame, the move seemed to catch Chinese Apple employees and mobile carriers off guard, the Times said.

Apple's stores in Beijing and Shanghai had already been prepping iPhone 6 sales to start on September 19, one source told the Times. A sales manager at China Telecom told the Times that "Apple completely let us down without prior notice." That same manager quoted Apple representatives who reportedly tried to explain the delay by saying that "there are some details which are not ready."

China's relationship with US technology companies can be volatile. In July, a researcher lashed out at the iPhone on state-run TV, calling the smartphone a national security threat that can collect data from its users, potentially revealing state secrets. Apple was forced to respond by saying that it does not collect any such data.

In an investors note released Thursday, JP Morgan analyst Rod Hall said the Times "report rings true given the Chinese government's recent interest in controlling phone marketing costs/subsidies." Apple did face obstacles trying to strike a deal with China Mobile to carry the iPhone reportedly because the country's largest carrier balked at the heavy subsidies demanded. Hall said he doesn't believe the delay would last too long but added that "nothing is certain with the Chinese government."

Starting September 19, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be available in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, and Singapore. Apple plans to launch the new iPhones across 115 different countries by year's end.

Apple declined to comment on matters beyond the list of initial countries.

Update 1:17 p.m. PT: Added Apple's response to a request for comment.