Apple and China Mobile have officially inked a multi-year deal that will bring the iPhone to China's largest telecom and provide a distribution and volume boost for months to come.
Analysts have estimated that China Mobile will enable Apple to sell anywhere from 15 million to about 20 million more iPhones. Specifically, Apple said that it will sell the iPhone 5s and 5c on China Mobile beginning Jan. 17.
China Mobile, which has 760 million customers, is rolling out 4G and expects to have 16 cities covered by the end of 2013. China Mobile will have 340 cities covered by 4G by the end of 2014. These 4G networks are based on China's own version of LTE. Apple will give that 4G standard a boost as well as support China's 3G flavors.
For Apple, the China Mobile deal is all about volume. As more subscribers in China go 4G, Apple stands to benefit. Apple CEO Tim Cook noted that China is "an extremely important market" to the company.
Forrester, however, noted:
Apple’s iPhone offerings are very expensive by China standards, starting at about $550 without subsidies, he also reports that there is lots of interest among China Mobile subscribers. With this deal, we’ll finally find out how far Apple can get in China without offering products that match the prices of Samsung, Huawei, or Xiaomi.
Indeed, Apple also needs to nudge Samsung a bit. China Mobile's Web site pushes Samsung devices on many of its pages. Apple is in fifth place in China.
The companies didn't reveal pricing or availability yet.