Is the Apple-China Mobile Deal Almost Here?


Yet another leaked image of a China Mobile (NYSE:CHL) advertisement promoting the sale of Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhones suggests that the Cupertino, California-based company may be closer than ever to inking a deal with China’s largest mobile carrier. The latest leaked advertising poster comes courtesy of Chinese website MyDrivers.

According to MyDrivers, the poster says that China Mobile will offer the “strongest iPhone” with full support for both 3G and 4G networks. Although the TD-LTE versions of Apple’s iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C have already been approved for use on China’s networks, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has yet to issue 4G operating licenses to the country’s carriers.

But according to Sina Tech, MIIT minister Miao Wei recently said that 4G licenses will be issued before the end of this year, while some rumors even suggest that licenses may be issued before the end of September. The leaked posters and the 4G license rumors both hint that China Mobile is on the verge of announcing a distribution deal with Apple.

According to CNBC, some industry watchers are even speculating that Tim Cook’s upcoming visit to New York may be related to a China Mobile deal announcement. A deal with China Mobile could be a major boon for Apple’s worldwide iPhone sales. As reported by AppleInsider, Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Whitmore believes that a deal with China Mobile could boost Apple’s iPhone sales by 20 million to 25 million units.

Recent data from mobile app analytics firm Localytics suggests that Apple’s flagship iPhone 5S model will make up a surprisingly high percentage of projected iPhone sales. According to Localytics, the iPhone 5S accounted for 91 percent of Apple’s new iPhone sales in China during the first 48 hours of availability.

This trend runs counter to many analysts’ predictions that the lower-cost iPhone would be more popular in emerging markets like China. Localytics Vice President Bernd Leger points out that the popularity of the gold-colored iPhone in Asian markets may have helped boost the overall sales of the iPhone 5S model in China. It should also be noted that China was the only market that was given the option to pre-order the iPhone 5S.

Although Apple already has distribution deals with China Unicom (NYSE:CHU) and China Telecom (NYSE:CHA), China Mobile is the country’s largest carrier, with more than 700 million subscribers.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS

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