|Apple bridges major distribution gap with China Mobile deal to sell iPhones in Year of The Horse
Apple says it has reached a deal to bring the iPhone to China Mobile, the world's biggest telco in terms of subscribers.
The iPhone 5S and 5C will go on sale in Apple stores and China Mobil stores beginning Friday, January 17 days before the Lunar New Year. China Mobil customers can register for phones starting Wednesday December 25.
"We know there are many China Mobile customers and potential new customers who are anxiously awaiting the incredible combination of iPhone on China Mobile's leading network,'' said China Mobile chairman Xi Guohua.
Apple chief executive Tim Cook stressed that "China is an extremely important market for Apple and our partnership with China Mobile presents us the opportunity to bring iPhone to the customers of the world's largest network.''
He said "iPhone customers in China are an enthusiastic and rapidly growing group, and we can't think of a better way to welcome in the Chinese New Year than getting an iPhone into the hands of every China Mobile customer who wants one.''
The companies did not announce pricing or the terms of the agreement.
The iPhone, while popular around the world, has faced tough competition in recent years from cheaper smartphones running Google's Android software. Collectively, Android phones far outsell Apple's iPhone.
Analysts speculate that Apple could sell another 10 million to 40 million more phones if it reached a deal with China Mobile. Some 50 million iPhones have been sold in China in the past 2 1/2 years, according to analyst estimates.
China Mobile is owned by the Chinese government, and has more than 750 million mobile accounts. However, a survey by Bernstein Research said some China Mobile consumers use smaller carriers for data services. Apple already has agreements with China Telecom and China Unicom., which have about 455 million mobile accounts.
China Mobile wants to have the world's largest 4G network, and the new iPhones might help it win over customers. The company received approval to start operating the faster network earlier this month and plans to have 4G services available in 16 cities by the end of 2013. It aims to provide coverage for 340 cities by the end of 2014. –AP/AFP