Apple Gets Regulator's Approval To Sell iPhones Through China Mobile

One big hurdle for Apple to sell iPhones with the world's biggest carrier, China Mobile, has just been crested, thanks to regulatory approval. But we still don't know if there's been a deal reached.

Apple proudly announced Chinese availability of its brand new iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C at yesterday's press event, and was happy to say this was the first time they'd launched concurrently in China along with other nations. But Tim Cook and Co. were curiously vague about the details of the China deal, conspicuously avoiding any mention of China Mobile--the world's largest carrier, and one that many rumors had suggested would be a big part of yesterday's news. Apple's got a China-specific press event today, and it looks like at the very last minute Apple's managed to get the right regulatory approval to sell a phone that runs on China Mobile's own 4G standard.

China's regulator has freshly announced it's issued licences for a unique version of the iPhone that will run on the TD-LTE network, which is a China-specific 4G wireless protocol that so far has had few phones approved to run on it. Licenses for the iPhone to run on the networks of China Unicom and China Telecom Corp., the second and third major Chinese carriers, were also revealed.

But what's still missing is confirmation of a deal with China Mobile itself.

News of a deal with China Mobile may prove to be far more significant for Apple's bottom line than many other items it revealed at yesterday's event. Expansion into China's markets represents an astonishing opportunity for Apple, especially since China Mobile alone has over 700 million customers. That's seven times as many as the U.S.'s top carrier Verizon. Tim Cook revealed that next month the 700 millionth iOS device will be sold, and if Apple can win over Chinese consumers this number is likely to be easily surpassed over the next year. The Chinese market is flooded with Android phones, but the iPhone carries prestige and the Apple brand has been known to stir up some serious passions in China.

[Image via Flickr user: anokarina]

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