Apple and China Mobile finally confirmed a long-anticipated deal which will see the world’s biggest mobile operator selling the iPhone, with its debut scheduled for early in 2014.
The iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c will be available from China Mobile’s retail stores as well as from the vendor’s retail network beginning 17 January 2014. Preregistration will begin on 25 December 2013.
Pricing details will be released “at a later date”.
The operator said that the launch of the device will be “a big boost to the development of China’s homegrown 4G/TD-LTE technology”.
Updating on the status of its 4G rollout, the company said that by the end of 2013 its service will be available in 16 cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.
By the end of 2014, it intends to complete the rollout of more than 500,000 4G base stations, which will cover more than 340 cities with 4G services.
“iPhone customers in China are an enthusiastic and rapidly growing group, and we can’t think of a better way to welcome in the Chinese New Year than getting an iPhone into the hands of every China Mobile customer who wants one,” said Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.
The Apple/China Mobile deal has been anticipated for some time, with China Mobile being the only one of China’s three operators not to offer the device.
While this has not been aided by the operator’s choice of 3G technology – TD-SCDMA – which has not been supported by earlier versions of the iPhone, the move to 4G (TD-LTE) sees China Mobile moving to a more widely-adopted technology.
But there is still a significant issue in terms of pricing: with the iPhone being a premium device, it is not immediately obvious how big the potential customer base will be.
However, coupled with 4G services, it will provide the operator with an attractive proposition to attract high-end customers – a market where it has lost some influence through its 3G choices.