Apple And China Mobile In Talks
May 18, 2012

Apple And China Mobile In Talks

Michael Harper for

We all know the iPhone is a smashing success. Last quarter alone, Apple sold 35.1 million iPhones, an impressive number which CEO Tim Cook attributed to rising demand in China and the East.

As it stands, the world´s largest wireless carrier, China Mobile, does not officially support the iPhone. Just how large is China Mobile? According to PC Mag, China Mobile boasts over 667 million subscribers, much more than all the American carriers combined.

Now, Bloomberg is reporting Apple and China Mobile are in talks to bring the iPhone to those millions of subscribers.

At a shareholder meeting in Hong Kong on Thursday, Chairman Xi Guohua said China Mobile can´t predict if the two companies will be able to reach an agreement this year.

For their part, China Mobile is hoping the next iPhone will take advantage of 4G technologies in order to woo back those customers who have gone to other subscribers in search for faster, more modern networks. China Mobile is now the only Chinese carrier not offering the iPhone. China Telecom started carrying the iPhone 4S this past March, and the iPhone made its official Chinese debut in 2009 at China Unicom.

“China Mobile and Apple both have the will to strengthen cooperation,” Xi said, according to Bloomberg.  “When there is more specific news, we will disclose it.”

True to Apple´s nature, their spokeswoman declined to comment.

As soon as China Mobile became the last Chinese carrier without the iPhone, talk began to circulate about when they would finally jump on board. Last August, Reuters reported that Steve Jobs had met with China Mobile executives several times in attempts to strike a deal between the two companies. Reuters also reported that, though China Mobile didn´t officially carry the iPhone, the operator had 7.44 million iPhones running on its network. Clearly, a demand for the iPhone in China exists.

But, in this ongoing war between Apple and Samsung, Apple may need China Mobile as much as China Mobile needs Apple. Bloomberg posted a report in February, saying in order for the iPhone makers to compete against Samsung, they will need as many of those 667 million subscribers as they can get.

“Having access to more subscribers gives vendors like Samsung an advantage,” said Teck Zhung Wong, a Beijing-based analyst with IDC China, according to the Bloomberg report.

“If Apple is going to continue to grow in the Chinese market, it has to consider very seriously a handset with China Mobile.”

The last time Apple announced a new iPhone to China – the iPhone 4S – customers were so eager to have the new device fights broke out between shoppers and scalpers, causing the police to shut the Beijing store down for safety concerns.

To accommodate this potential rush of customers using a new technology, China Mobile is extending its 4G trial network to nine more cities and will add another 20,000 base stations to the 900 it tested last year, according to Bloomberg. Should all go according to plan, China Mobile hopes to have 200,000 4G base stations next year.

While rumors begin to wildly circulate about what the next iPhone will look like, when it will be released and whether or not it will feature 4G radios, Apple announcing a partnership with China Mobile could be the biggest advancement to the smartphone Apple has ever achieved.