NTT Docomo, Japan’s largest mobile operator with around 60 million subscribers, will soon start selling iPhones for the first time, while China Telecom and China Unicom look poised to carry Apple’s latest iPhone models within days of their expected launch in Beijing next week.
According to Reuters’ sources, NTT Docomo will probably start selling iPhones as soon as autumn, helping Apple extend its reach in a country where it already has around a 40 per cent market share (more than three times the share held by rival Samsung).
There have been some sticking points in reaching an agreement between the two companies in the past. These include allowing Docomo to preinstall its own proprietary apps and services on the iPhone, as well as allowing the Japanese firm to put its logo on every iPhone it sells.
There has also been speculation that Apple insists iPhones make up more than 50 per cent of a carrier’s total handset sales, but DoCoMo, apparently, prefers a cap of 20-30 per cent.
Reuters’ sources did not reveal the conditions of the agreement.
“It’s possible Apple were more flexible with DoCoMo because obviously it’s a large carrier and it’s somewhere they could get new unit volumes to come through,” said Nathan Ramler, head of Asia telecommunications research at Macquarie Capital Securities in Tokyo, quoted by Reuters.
According to local reports an announcement on NTT Docomo is likely to come on 10 September when Apple is expected to unveil the latest version of the iPhone.
Over in China, China Unicom and China Telecom, the country’s second- and third-biggest operators – which already have iPhone distribution deals with Apple – will reportedly start selling the latest iPhone models within days of their likely unveiling at an event staged by the Cupertino giant on 11 September in Beijing (a day after the US event).
“There used to be a wait of a few months before Apple launches their latest products in China, but nowadays, China is too important a market for Apple and so it will be the first batch of markets to start selling the low and high-end iPhones next week,” an unnamed operator source told Reuters.
China Mobile is the only carrier without an iPhone contract, although a deal is rumoured to be on the cards, particularly if Apple’s high-end 5S model supports China Mobile’s favoured TD-LTE technology.