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Chinese users applaud Apple, China Mobile deal

BEIJING--Chinese users welcomed a long-awaited tie-up between Apple and China Mobile, the world's biggest wireless operator, but analysts warned Monday that the deal's impact depends on the quality of the carrier's 4G network.

The U.S. technology giant and China Mobile unveiled on Sunday the agreement to bring the iPhone to customers on a network with an estimated 760 million subscribers and until now dominated by low-cost Android smartphones.

The U.S. company's iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c phones will be available at China Mobile and Apple retail stores across mainland China starting Jan. 17, they said in a joint statement.

Chinese mobile phone users gave the deal a rousing ovation, hailing it as “a marathon love affair that finally came to a happy ending,” in the words of one fan.

“It finally comes — I've been waiting for so long that I'm exhausted,” a user with the online handle Gluttonous Miser posted on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

Apple iPhones can currently be used on China Mobile's 2G network but not on its higher-speed 3G network due to a home-grown standard the carrier has adopted.

While users were generally upbeat, some raised concerns about the cost of the devices to be offered by China Mobile.

“Come on, the price must not let us down, it has to be encouraging, better not to go over 4,000 yuan (US$660),” wrote another user.

The unsubsidized price of the iPhone 5c, a model with a slightly reduced cost to appeal to budget-conscious consumers and available in a range of colors, is US$550 in the United States but higher in other countries, often due to tax and regulatory issues.

In China the 5c currently sells at more than US$700, and the 5s goes for US$870 on Apple's official China site. Apple and China Mobile said that pricing details under the new deal will be announced “at a later date.”

However, analyst Ben Bajarin at Creative Strategies said he expects “some kind of subsidy” for the iPhone in China.

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 Apple, China Mobile sign iPhone deal 
Shoppers walk past the Apple store in Beijing on Sunday, Dec. 22. Apple has unveiled a long-anticipated deal with China Mobile, the world's biggest wireless carrier, to bring the iPhone to customers in a market dominated by low-cost Android smartphones.


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