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Apple, China Mobile sign iPhone deal

New York - 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.

The deal gives Apple a bigger entry into the huge Chinese market and China Mobile's estimated 760 million subscribers. The network is also rolling out the world's biggest 4G network.

Under the agreement, iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c phones will be available at China Mobile and Apple retail stores across mainland China starting January 17, Apple said in a statement. Pricing details were not announced.

"We know there are many China Mobile customers and potential new customers who are anxiously awaiting the incredible combination of iPhone on China Mobile's leading network," said China Mobile chairman Xi Guohua.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook stressed that "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."

He said "iPhone customers in China are an enthusiastic and rapidly growing group, and we can't think of a better way to welcome in the Chinese New Year than getting an iPhone into the hands of every China Mobile customer who wants one."

Negotiations between Apple and China Mobile took years, with one key hurdle reportedly being the US firm's demand for sales volume guarantees.

Analyst Horace Dediu at the consultancy Asymco said a conservative estimate of four percent of China Mobile customers would yield sales of some 30 million iPhones in the first year.

Cantor Fitzgerald Research estimated that 35 million to 45 million iPhones were already on China Mobile's network as of October, despite the lack of a deal between the companies.

Apple could sell as many as 24 million iPhones on the China Mobile network next year, Cantor Fitzgerald said.

However, Morgan Stanley analysts recently estimated Apple would add only around 12 million new iPhone sales in the coming year with China Mobile.

Apple drew some US$25 billion in revenue from China in the fiscal year ended in September, despite some softness in the second half of the year.

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This picture taken on December 22 shows shoppers walking past the Apple store in Beijing. 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.

(AFP)

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