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China Mobile briefly allows iPhone pre-orders, suspends site: Fortune.com

Reuters--China Mobile Ltd., the world's largest mobile phone carrier, has quietly begun taking pre-orders for Apple Inc.'s iPhones, according to a report on Fortune.com.

Apple, which needs to expand its footprint in China, its biggest market after the United States, is trying to offset slowing revenue growth in developed markets that are increasingly saturated and hyper-competitive.

The Chinese carrier has struggled to sustain growth as rivals like China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd. sign up new users at a faster pace.

Apple fell to No. 7 in the second quarter in China, the world's largest mobile market, with 5-percent market share, losing ground not just to Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. but also to local rivals Lenovo Group Ltd. and ZTE Corp.

Fortune's report, which could not be confirmed by Reuters, showed a screen grab from a reservation website that Fortune said was registered by a China Mobile subsidiary in southern China that began taking pre-orders for the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5c late on Monday. At 6:30 a.m. EST on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. Beijing time), the page had been replaced with a notice saying it was being updated and pre-orders would resume later.

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