The world’s largest carrier, China Mobile, confirmed that it is in talks with Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple to bring the iPhone to its network, according to Bloomberg. Speaking to investors in Hong Kong yesterday, China Mobile’s Chairman Xi Guohua said, “China Mobile and Apple both have the will to strengthen cooperation. When there is more specific news, we will disclose it.” China Mobile has the world’s largest subscriber rate by far, with a whopping 667.2 million subscribers accounted for by the end of March. However, due to the carrier’s choice in 3G technology, it has not been compatible with any iPhone that Apple has manufactured.
As we previously stated, though, things could change with the release of the next iPhone. During this year’s Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, Qualcomm revealed a 3G chip that supports TD-SCDMA, TD-LTE, and LTE on FDD and TDD networks, which brings support to China Mobile. If Apple chooses to include the chip in the sixth-generation iPhone, China Mobile could become a reality. In October, we reported that China Mobile had 10 million iPhones on its network—much like T-Mobile does in the United States. Sadly, users are only able to use EDGE on the unsupported network.
The iPhone is currently available on China Telecom and China Unicom in China. As Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has stated time-and-time again during annual earnings calls with investors, China is a very key emerging market for the company. According to Cook last month, the company gained a ton of sales from the pent-up demand for the iPhone 4S last quarter.
I would not doubt if the next iPhone launches on China Mobile. However, I would not count on it being this year, but rather at the beginning of 2013. China Mobile is huge and it would be foolish of Apple not to use the technology available to launch on the world’s largest carrier.
- China passes US in smartphone usage, over a billion mobile subscribers overall (9to5mac.com)
- Apple appeases 15 million unofficial iPhone users on incompatible China Mobile network with software fix, due shortly after iPad 3 unveiling (9to5mac.com)
- Qualcom just announced the chip that would be a one-stop shop for Apple’s mobile needs (9to5mac.com)