Tim-Cook-China January File Photo

We broke the news yesterday that Tim Cook was in China talking to the local telecoms about upcoming iPhones. It was speculated that along with the confirmed China Telecom, Cook would also likely be going after the big kahuna, China Mobile.

Today, Reuters got a confirmation from China Mobile Ltd Chairman Xi Guohua that Tim Cook did meet in Beijing on Tuesday to discuss the iPhone. The Chinese telecom confirmed the meeting in an emailed statement saying only ‘matters of cooperation’ [iPhone]were discussed.

China Mobile is the largest carrier on earth with nearly 700M subscribers (about U.S.+W. Europe in scale) and is the only carrier in China not to have a distribution deal with Apple. Just getting a conservative 5% of China Mobile’s huge base would net Apple 35M additional iPhone sales.

A deal with China Mobile would likely spur significant additional iPhone sales, especially the widely-rumored cheaper plastic version coming online later this year. The talks come after Apple reported  overall flattening growth in China, Apple’s second biggest market after the U.S.

Apple said last week that its April-June sales in Greater China, which includes Taiwan and Hong Kong, slumped 43 percent from the previous quarter. Greater China accounted for 13 percent of Apple’s quarterly sales, or $5 billion, down from nearly 19 percent in January-March.

It is Cook’s third known trip to China since he took over as CEO almost two years ago. Other things that may come up include Pegatron’s supposed worker violation issues and perhaps even another Beijing scalping problem.

Update: The WSJ confirms the meeting and notes that Cook also met with China Unicom, the nation’s third largest carrier and current apple distributor.

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Seth Weintraub

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