Reuters: China Unicom/Telecom to start taking iPhone 5S/5C pre-orders next week

Gold iPhone 5S (Martin Hajek 005)

Yesterday, China’s state-owned #3 carrier China Telecom supposedly inadvertently let slip that it will start selling Apple’s upcoming iPhone 5S upgrade and the new mid-range iPhone 5C beginning September 20. The official pre-order page had even gone live briefly before the telco killed it.

I’m always doubtful of such “leaks” and tend to dismiss them as the perfectly legitimate PR stunts designed to drum up the excitement ahead of the launch. Be that as it may, Reuters on Friday confirmed with its sources that both China Telecom and China Unicom will indeed start taking preorders for the new iPhones as early as next week…

Per the article:

Chinese telecom carriers China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd and China Telecom Corp Ltd will carry Apple Inc’s newest iPhone models within days of their launch in Beijing next week as the U.S. technology giant tries to regain lost ground in its second-biggest market by releasing the phones faster.

China Unicom and China Telecom, both Apple’s carrier partners, are the mainland’s second and third-biggest telcos with a combined 266 million subscribers.

Days after the launch in Beijing, both of Apple’s current Chinese carriers will accept pre-orders. It will take about a week for them to deliver the new iPhones to their customers, the source said.

New iPhones are expected to go on sale in Apple’s key markets on Friday, September 20, giving Apple and its partners ten days to collect pre-orders.

Also, this:

Apple’s high-end 5S model may support a 4G technology called TD-LTE, which could pave the way for an agreement with China Mobile, which has more than double the subscribers of China Unicom and Telecom combined.

Last quarter, Apple experienced an unexpected drop in sales from China amid the onslaught of inexpensive Android devices.

China Telecom (iPhone 5C, image 001)
Some of the web assets discovered on China Telecom’s servers.

Perhaps realizing its mistake, the company through the mouth of its CEO Tim Cook promised to double-down on China. After a series of attacks by state-run media slammed Apple’s product policies, the company started softening its stance on warranties in China and even issued a letter of apology to Chinese customers.

We recently learned Apple will be holding a satellite event in Beijing on September 11, the day after the September 10 iPhone 5S/5C keynote in Cupertino, California. Pundits are adamant that the Beijing event will serve as the launchpad for a landmark distribution agreement with China Mobile, the world’s top telco with 700+ million subscribers.

China Mobile should move the needle in terms of iPhone sales in the region.

iPhones (iPhone 5, graphite gold iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C)

The September 11 Beijing event marks the first iPhone media event in China.

Should Apple permit Chinese customers to get their hands on the new iPhones at almost the same time as their U.S. counterparts, it’ll be another sign of the importance of the Chinese market and an encouraging indication of Apple’s willingness to appease to its second-largest market.

Previously, Apple products would become available in China a few months after the device’s first hit countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France.

At any rate, given China’s impact on Apple’s bottom line – its second-largest revenue source – and the importance of the Chinese smartphone market – the world’s largest with 1 billion users – Apple is smart to prioritize China and ensure would-be shoppers there receive the first batch of new products shortly after they launch.