Apple, China Mobile sign long-awaited deal to sell iPhones

Mon Dec 23, 2013 5:03am EST
 
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By Ryan Vlastelica and Paul Carsten

NEW YORK/BEIJING (Reuters) - Apple Inc said it has signed a long-awaited agreement with China Mobile Ltd to sell iPhones through the world's biggest network of mobile phone users.

In a deal that could add billions of dollars to its revenue, Apple said its smartphones will be available to China Mobile customers starting January 17. Pricing and availability details for the iPhone 5S and 5C lines will be disclosed at a later date, it said in a statement.

China Mobile, which has about 760 million customers, will begin registering orders for iPhone from December 25, the company said on its account on the Sina-Weibo micro-blogging service.

The tie-up provides a much-needed boost for Apple in a country where it's trailing rivals, even though China is its second-largest market after the U.S. It will also give Apple extra firepower in its intensifying global competition with South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

Apple didn't disclose financial terms of the agreement. Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive, said in its statement that China is an extremely important market for the Cupertino-based company.

In a country where smartphone sales are booming, Apple has trailed its competitors. Shipments of iPhones in the country grew 32 percent year-on-year for the third quarter, about half of China's Lenovo Group Ltd, which had the next slowest growth at 64 percent year-on-year.

SAMSUNG BATTLE

China Mobile could gain 17 million new iPhone activations in 2014 alone, according to research firm Forrester - more than the 16.8 million iPhones Apple sold in mainland China for the 12 months ended September, according to Forrester data.   Continued...

 
A worker cleans glass in front of an iPhone 5C advertisement at an apple store in Kunming, Yunnan province, in this October 27, 2013 file picture. REUTERS/Wong Campion