Apple and China Mobile have agreed to a long-awaited deal that will put the iPhone on the world's largest carrier.
As part of the "multi-year" agreement, China Mobile will offer the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C from China Mobile's network of retail stores and Apple retail stores across mainland China beginning 17 January 2014. Apple says "pre-registration" to get a handset will begin 25 December. No pricing has been announced.
“Apple has enormous respect for China Mobile and we are excited to begin working together," said Tim Cook, CEO of Apple. "China is an extremely important market for Apple and our partnership with China Mobile presents us the opportunity to bring iPhone to the customers of the world's largest network.”
The iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C released in September added network compatibility with China Mobile's unique TD-LTE and TD-SCDMA networks. The number two and three carriers China Unicom and China Telecom have been offering the Apple-line for some time, and many in the industry have long wondered why it took so long for the iPhone to reach China Mobile.
Read: iPhone 5S review
The deal will mean big business for Apple, as China Mobile serves 760 million customers compared to AT&T's 109 million. Analyst Amit Daryanani of RBC Capital Markets said in a note directed to investors earlier this month that Apple will garner another $9 billion to $10 billion in annual revenue from a deal with China Mobile.
“In terms of geographic distribution, we saw highest growth in China, and it was into the triple digits,” Apple's Cook said in January, indicating how important the region is to Apple.
Over the years it's been reported that 42 million subscribers chose to buy an iPhone off-contract through a third-party and then use it on China Mobile. Those customers are subject to 2G speeds, thanks to older iPhone network compatibility.
Soon customers will be able to buy the smartphone directly through the carrier, and we'll see Apple's revenue rise in the process.