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Apple seals major deal to bring iPhone to China Mobile

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-23

Apple and China Mobile on Monday announced a long-awaited deal to bring the iPhone to the world’s biggest phone company.

The agreement has the potential to boost iPhone sales in a market where Apple Inc. faces stiff competition. The iPhone already is available in China through two smaller carriers, but the latest deal links it with a bigger network, as well as state-owned China Mobile Ltd.’s marketing power.

The iPhone is popular with Chinese customers who can afford it but has been overshadowed by cheaper smartphones put out by Samsung and other local brands.

The iPhone 5S and 5C will be on sale in Apple and China Mobile stores as of Friday, January 17. China Mobile customers can register for phones starting Wednesday.

The deal comes during a major gift-shopping period in China, just a month before the country’s Lunar New Year in late January.

Experts have predicted possible increased iPhone sales under a deal with China Mobile at anywhere from 10 million to 40 million – though it remains to be seen whether the agreement results in additional iPhone sales or only prompts existing users to switch to China Mobile.

Apple’s share of China’s smartphone sales declined to 6.2 percent in the third quarter of 2013 from 7.9 percent a year earlier, according to Canalys. Meanwhile, Samsung’s share expanded from 14.1 percent to 21.2 percent over the same period.

Apple CEO Tim Cook told the official Xinhua News Agency in January that he expects China to surpass the US as its biggest market. About 50 million iPhones have been sold in China in the past two and a half years, according to estimates.

China Mobile has more than 750 million mobile accounts. However, according to a survey by Bernstein Research, some China Mobile customers use smaller carriers for data service. Apple already has agreements with China Telecom Ltd. and China Unicom Ltd., which between them have roughly 455 million mobile accounts.

The iPhone once was so popular with Chinese gadget fans that buyers in Beijing waited overnight in freezing weather for the 4S model. But that excitement had mostly evaporated by the time the 5S was released in September.

China Mobile’s goal is to have the world’s largest 4G network. It plans to offer 4G services in 16 cities by the end of this year and coverage for 340 cities by the end of 2014.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)
 

Date created : 2013-12-23

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