WSJ: China Mobile to start taking iPhone pre-orders this Thursday

By , Dec 9, 2013

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The long-enduring game of cat and mouse between Apple, the maker of the world’s most popular smartphone, and China Mobile, the world’s top wireless carriers with more than 700 million subscribers (the equivalent of over twice the US population), looks to be ending as the carrier is expected to start taking pre-orders for the iconic device later this week, reports The Wall Street Journal.

As the carrier is gearing up to launch its long-expected high-speed fourth-generation network services on December 18, China Mobile Shanghai’s website on Monday invited potential customers to pre-order the iPhone 5s and other smartphones from Samsung and Sony that support China Mobile’s new 4G TD-LTE mobile network…

The story reads:

China Mobile plans to take preorders for Apple Inc.’s iPhones from Thursday in Shanghai, according to an advertisement on its website, as the world’s largest mobile carrier by subscribers moves closer to launching high-speed fourth-generation mobile services in the country.

A quick test to preorder an iPhone 5S didn’t work Monday. A phone call to a China Mobile customer representative confirmed that customers can preorder iPhones from the site starting Thursday.

A sales rep confirmed to the author that pre-orders open from December 12 through China Mobile’s website and some dedicated branches in Shanghai. “But we will only start providing commercial 4G services after December 18,” the customer services operator said.

There will also be a new pricing plan tailored for the new iPhones, but no further details were provided at post time. The China Mobile website confirmed that the carrier’s TD-LTE service will be launching in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Tianjian, Shenzhen and Nanjing by the end of this year.

Rival China Unicom has offered iPhones since 2009 and China Telecom began selling iPhones in 2012. If analysts are to be trusted, the deal could add a cool 38 million units to Apple’s total iPhone sales in 2014.

iOS 7 teaser (iPhone 5s ad 002)

Last week, the credulous financial newspaper quoted unnamed sources as claiming that Apple and China Mobile have finally inked a lucrative iPhone distribution agreement in Apple’s second-largest revenue market of 1.33 billion people. The deal has been confirmed by state-run news outlet Xinhua and a China Mobile subsidiary.

However, a conflicting report last Friday by the Agence France Presse insisted the two sides had not yet reached a deal.

“Talks between China Mobile and Apple on cooperation are still going on and we currently do not have anything to announce,” the carrier’s spokeswoman Rainie Lei told AFP. Although Apple CEO Tim Cook views China as “a huge opportunity” for his company, neither side would budge.

The primary point of contention, according to multiple web reports, is Apple’s insistence of sales volume guarantees. On top of that, China Mobile wanted a cut of revenue from App Store sales. The amount of subsidy offered to China Mobile subscribers who wish to purchase an iPhone is another key hurdle to the deal.

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