The world’s largest carrier, China Mobile, has over 600 million wireless subscribers. 10 million of these customers have iPhones despite that fact that China Mobile is not an official Apple partner.
What’s even more surprising is that the iPhone isn’t currently compatible with China Mobile’s TD-SCDMA 3G network, meaning that these 10 million unofficial iPhone users are all limited to 2G data speeds.
“China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile carrier by subscribers, has 10 million iPhone users even though it does not yet have an agreement with iPhone maker Apple, its chairman told Reuters on Monday.
Wang Jianzhou also said Apple had promised to make an iPhone compatible with China Mobile’s TD-LTE standard when its next-generation model comes out. He could not say when this would happen.”
Apple has acknowledged its potential business in China multiple times in the past. The company has called China “very key to our results,” and Tim Cook sees Apple as “just scratching the surface right now” when it comes to market penetration in Asia.
China Mobile obviously represents a huge opportunity for Apple. The Cupertino company has taken the issue so seriously that Tim Cook visited carrier execs in China recently. Even Steve Jobs himself became personally involved in an attempt to reach an agreement.
Rumors have been circulating for months that China Mobile will be getting the next-gen iPhone in 2012, and Wang Jianzhou’s comment seems to corroborate that story. It makes sense for Apple to introduce a LTE-compatible iPhone next year, and a launch on China Mobile in Asia would undoubtedly result in landmark sales. But like all Apple rumors, only time will tell.
At the moment, China Unicom is the only official iPhone partner in China. The nation’s other two major carriers, China Mobile and China Telecom, are allegedly in talks with Apple to offer the iPhone as early as next year.