China Mobile is the world’s largest operator. They have over 740 million subscribers. To put that number into some perspective, that’s twice the population of the United States of America. So yeah, they’re a big deal, but oddly enough they don’t sell the iPhone. Now why is that?
The first reason is the most obvious one, cost. While you and I can afford an iPhone, most of China is only now starting to reach what we in the West would call “Middle Class”. So how is Apple going to address that? With the rumored budget iPhone. It’ll be more expensive than what the local brands can offer, but it’ll still be far cheaper than what an iPhone 5 goes for these days.
Second reason, and one that doesn’t get talked about a lot, is technological. China Mobile’s 3G network uses the TD-SCDMA standard, so previously if Apple wanted to make a phone that supports that network, they’d need to reengineer the entire thing. But now that Apple uses Qualcomm’s modems instead of Infineon’s, and Qualcomm has chips that can use not only TD-SCDMA, but the 4G LTE standard that China Mobile plans to support called TDD-LTE, then that problem will solve itself when the new iPhones get launched.
Third reason, Apple doesn’t want to sell phones to operators who don’t sign an agreement to buy a certain amount of units over a given period and also invest in marketing. With Apple placing a greater emphasis on the China market, specifically with the launch of the rumored budget iPhone later this year, that gives China Mobile an incentive to sign a deal with Apple.
Will the two announce they’re best friends forever this year? All signs point to yes.