Ina Fried

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Apple Strikes Long-Awaited Deal With China Mobile, With iPhone 5s and 5c to Hit Stores on January 17

After years of talks, Apple confirmed on Sunday that it has at long last reached a deal with China Mobile to officially carry the iPhone.

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China Mobile will start selling the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c starting on Jan. 17, with pre-registrations starting this Wednesday. Pricing details will come later, Apple said.

“Apple’s iPhone is very much loved by millions of customers around the world,” China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua said in a statement. “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.”

Apple’s Tim Cook said he is excited to begin working with China Mobile.

“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,” Cook 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.”

Apple could sell millions of iPhones next year through China Mobile, according to analyst estimates. Piper Jaffray sees the potential for 17 million sales by China Mobile, while ISI analyst Brian Marshall said sales could reach nearly 39 million iPhones next year.

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White sees thing somewhere between those estimates, forecasting calendar 2014 iPhone sales of 20 million to 24 million on China Mobile, while Wedge Partners analyst Brian Blair sees sales of 18 million to 20 million iPhones, though the number will depend on how aggressively Apple and China Mobile promote the iPhone.

“We expect a strong marketing push to follow the official announcement, and that is what is critical,” Blair told AllThingsD earlier this month. “It’s Apple’s job to turn the Chinese consumer away from entrenched brands like Samsung.”

Even before the China Mobile deal, Apple has been making some inroads in the giant market. According to Counterpoint Research, the iPhone 5s, 5 and 5c were October’s No. 1, 2 and 4 top-selling smartphones, with Apple grabbing 12 percent of that month’s market share.


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