Apple Plays the China Card: Top Carriers to Bring New iPhone 5 to 611M Eager Subscribers

Apple Business in China

To underline how important China has become in Apple’s overall sales, the tech giant’s new iPhone 5 will be sold by that nation’s three top mobile carriers by year’s end, according to a Friday report.

China Telecom, already Apple’s partner, along with China Unicom, could get the new handset as “early as the third quarter of this year,” reports Bloomberg, citing Chinese market analysis firm Caixin.

The iPhone 5 is expected to be released in September, setting up the possibility of Apple launching the new handset in both the U.S. and China.

Although China Mobile would get the iPhone 5 at a later date, according to an unnamed person, the carrier would be a huge win for Apple. With 611 million subscribers, China Mobile reaches 68 percent of the country’s wireless subscribers.

In June, Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook was photographed at China Mobile headquarters. For some time, rumors have circulated about the two parties wishing to get the iPhone into the hands of mobile Chinese. Earlier this week, Cook said China is an “incredible opportunity” for the Cupertino, Calif. firm, noting sales in Greater China had jumped six-fold in the last quarter.