Apple, China Mobile Discussing iPhone, but Don’t Hold Your Breath
China Mobile may get the iPhone, but probably not anytime soon. Apple and the world’s largest mobile carrier are in discussions to include a partnership on the iPhone, Bloomberg reported, quoting the Chairman of China Mobile. The report also notes that the iPhone is unlikely to hit China Mobile’s 667 million subscribers this year, as the two sides won’t likely come to an agreement very fast.
Yet the discussion is the beginning of a deal that is inevitable and essential to the two companies.
“China Mobile and Apple both have the will to strengthen cooperation,” said China Mobile’s Chairman Xi Guohua. “When there is more specific news, we will disclose it.”
One problem includes China Mobile’s proprietary network that doesn’t work well with the mobile radios in the iPhone. While the mobile carrier is currently rolling out 4G service, it’s only available in six Chinese cities so far, though three more are scheduled to be added this year. China Mobile is planning to accelerate its roll out this year, aspiring to bring its current 4G base stations from 900 to 200,000.
The carrier is counting on the shift to 4G to stem a decline in market share among subscribers who use mobile devices primarily to access the web or play video games. Its 3G service has limited it from offering many popular phones including the iPhone, which is carried by several of its domestic competitors, including China Unicom and China Telecom Corp.
In the long run, China Mobile needs 4G and Apple just to stay competitive in its current market. It will be a golden deal for Apple as well, as the company faces huge popularity in China and big market opportunity due to China’s exploding middle class. Apple’s revenues in China are tripling annually.
Plus, China Mobile’s users are itching to have their own iPhones as well. The phone carrier already has more than 15 million iPhones, despite not being able to sell the device legally or have a 4G base to support its capabilities. Those iPhones came from users who jaibreaked their phones to use the smartphone. Morgan Stanley Analysts predict that China Mobile could sell more than 60 million iPhones by the end of 2013.