After years of speculation — and some incredibly drawn-out contract negotiations along the way — China Mobile finally began selling iPhones today.
Tim Cook was in Beijing for the launch, where he handed out autographed iPhones to customers, alongside China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua. Cook tweeted the following:
Having fun in Beijing at the iPhone launch with China Mobile! pic.twitter.com/AqoqLbbeO7
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) January 17, 2014
Although there has been speculation about what a China Mobile deal really means for Apple, almost no-one has argued that it is not a positive move: since it opens up Apple’s iPhone market to a potential customer base of 763 million. (That’s more than twice the population of the United States!)
Apple is hoping that the China Mobile deal will make the company competitive in a country where the iPhone currently occupies just 6 percent of the smartphone market share — according to research firm Canalys who analyzed Q3 sales in 2013.
China Mobile has claimed that it has already received more than 1 million pre-orders for the iPhone, while analysts estimates for yearly unit sales vary between 10-24 million iPhones.
Although few people would expect Apple to start waging a competitive price war with other brands to raise market penetration, a subsidy battle may well be on its way — with rivals China Unicom and China Telecom (both of which sell the iPhone at present) already slashing their prices to offer new deals on iPhone contracts.