Our days of wondering are over: Apple and China Mobile have made their public debut together. Apple announced Sunday evening that the iPhone will be available through the world’s largest mobile network, China Mobile, starting in January. The iPhone is available for pre-order starting December 25 (I seriously saw that and was like, “Hmm, not in time for Christmas?” before remembering that Christmas isn't a Chinese holiday), and will be in stores on January 17, 2014.
The deal was all but confirmed earlier this month when China Mobile was granted a 4G license. Apple had reportedly been reluctant to entrust its iPhones to the carrier’s previously unreliable 3G network. China Mobile’s smaller rivals China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd. and China Telecom Corp. have been selling iPhones since 2009 and 2012, respectively, using different 3G technology. China Mobile’s 4G network will be the largest in the world, and by the end of the year, its 4G services will be available in 16 cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. By the end of next year, China Mobile will have more than 500,000 4G base stations and 4G services will be available in over 340 cities.
China Mobile has some 1.2 million 2G/GSM, 3G/TD-SCDMA, 4G/TD-LTE base stations along with more than 4.2 million Wi-fi access points.
China Mobile will be getting the iPhone 5S and 5C, but Apple says that pricing details will be available at a later date, so it’s not clear whether or not China Mobile customers will get any subsidies.
“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. We are delighted that iPhone on China Mobile will support our 4G/TD-LTE and 3G/TD-SCDMA networks, providing customers with high-speed mobile service,” said China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua, in a statement.
Currently, Samsung is the largest smartphone player in China, accounting for 21% of the market. Meanwhile, Apple was languishing as the seventh most popular smartphone maker in China last year, but has since clawed its way up to fifth place. It still only accounts for 6% of the Chinese market, according to Canalys. Nevertheless, China remains Apple’s third largest market.
China Mobile will do big things for Apple’s global market share and overall customer base. The mobile network accounts for 70% of China’s mobile services market and has 760 million subscribers—seven times that of Verizon’s customer base.
UBS has forecasted that Apple could sell 17 million iPhones through China Mobile next year, two-thirds of which would be iPhone 5C.
Meanwhile, research firm Trefis believes Apple could potentially sell 1.5 million iPhones per month in China, adding up to some 20 million new iPhones in China in 2014.
Apple shares were up 2.7% Monday morning to $563.87 from $549 at the close Friday.
Image source: bwbx.io