Numerous sources claim that Apple and China Mobile have a long last signed deal to sell iPhones to the world’s largest mobile phone company.
Citing sources close to the matter, The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple and China Mobile have struck a deal to make the iPhone available to the telecom’s 740 million subscribers. Other mentions include CNBC: Apple signs long-awaited deal with China Mobile: The Guardian: Apple to sell iPhone on China Mobile, the world’s biggest carrier, reports say
The partnership has been a very long time coming, with multiple rumors of a possible China Mobile iPhone offering dating back years. Most recently, a China Mobile subsidiary in Suzhou opened preorder reservations for both the latest iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c through its website, though the page was subsequently replaced by a survey gauging customer demand for 4G devices.
With China Mobile’s unique TD-LTE network rollout coming in mid-December, many industry watchers expected sales for Apple’s smartphone to go live this month. A report from the state-run Xinhua News Agency in November cited insiders as saying both new iPhone models would, in fact, be available on the 4G network’s official Dec. 18 launch date.
China Mobile is the largest cellular carrier in the world, with some 740 million subscribers spread across the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and overseas. Of that massive number, only a fraction are 3G subscribers who would likely be the first to adopt faster, more expensive 4G technology. Even so, Apple is looking at well over 100 million potential customers at the outset, with the chance to tap into hundreds of millions more down the road.
China Telecom and China Unicom already sell 3G-compatible versions of the iPhone. But Apple’s handset has not officially been available on China Mobile because the two companies had so far been unable to agree a revenue-sharing deal on handset, data and app sales, and because China Mobile uses its own version of 3G which is incompatible with those deployed elsewhere.
Apple has never made an iPhone that is compatible with China Mobile’s 3G services – but even so there are an estimated 42m iPhone users on its network, using slower 2G and EDGE services. They represent an estimated 80% of iPhone users in China.
Apple declined to comment on the report. China Mobile said in a statement that talks on cooperation were ongoing and there was “nothing to disclose”.