China Mobile is still in talks with Apple to launch the iPhone and is busy promoting its own ‘OPhones’ as the world’s largest mobile operator gets to grips with last week’s news that rival China Unicom has signed a three-year deal to sell Apple’s iconic device. China Unicom’s deal will see the iPhone go on sale in the world’s largest mobile market from the fourth quarter. However, the deal is not exclusive, giving China Mobile the opportunity to also bring the iPhone to its customer base of around 500 million. An IDG news report cites a China Mobile spokeswoman as stating that talks between the operator and Apple (ongoing now for around two years) have reached no conclusion yet.

Marvin Lo, an analyst at Daiwa Securities, expects about 2 million iPhone sales in China each year through the China Unicom tie-up, not far above the number sold in other countries. Apple currently sells about 30 million iPhones per year worldwide. Other analysts though believe that Apple may struggle to enhance regional sales via a China Mobile deal as the operator uses a homegrown 3G technology (TD-SCDMA) currently not supported by the iPhone, and is also heavily promoting its own application store (Mobile Market), potentially a competitor to Apple’s hugely successful App Store. China Mobile has also been busy demonstrating its first smartphones – known as ‘OPhones’ – running off its own operating system, Open Mobile System. OPhone handsets from Dell, HTC and Lenovo Mobile are to be released shortly. Meanwhile, China’s third mobile operator – China Telecom – is reported to be close to securing a deal to offer Palm’s Pre device.