Late yesterday evening, China Mobile quietly launched a reservation for the iPhone 5s and 5c via its subsidiary in Suzhou—a major city in Eastern China. This serves as one of the first concrete traces that Apple has in fact reached a deal with the world’s largest carrier.
Rumors about the partnership have intensified in recent months, and in November, the state-run news outlet Xinhua reported that an official announcement would be made on December 18. The two sides have been negotiating an iPhone deal for more than 5 years…
Fortune’s Elmer-DeWitt was first to spot the page:
“The attached screen grab comes from a website owned by a subsidiary of China Mobile Limited (CHL) in Suzhou, a city of 5 million just west of Shanghai. The site went live late Monday local time, when it began taking pre-orders for the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C.
It was the first concrete evidence that a distribution deal — six years in the making — between Apple (AAPL) and the world’s largest mobile carrier has been consummated.”
AppleInsider has done some translating, and notes that the fine print says the reservation page is only open to China Mobile users in Suzhou. Order priority for iPhones will be given to those who reserve an appointment, but it doesn’t say when they’ll be available for purchase.
By all accounts, a China Mobile launch would be a huge boon for Apple’s marketshare in the country, and smartphone business in general. The carrier has well over 700 million wireless subscribers, some 40 million of which are said to already be using unlocked iPhone models.
In December, China Mobile will launch its TD-LTE network, which is already supported by both the iPhone 5s and 5c.