Apple ships 1.4 million iPhone 5s units to China Mobile ahead of Friday’s launch

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After several years of negotiations, and following months of rumors, Apple announced in December that it had finally inked a deal with China Mobile. The carrier will officially start offering the company’s smartphone on January 17.

And it looks like they’re expecting a big turnout. According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, Apple supplier Foxconn has shipped roughly 1.4 million iPhone 5s units to China Mobile ahead of Friday’s historic launch…

Here’s the Journal’s Lorraine Luk:

“Apple’s AAPL +1.63% major iPhone assembler Foxconn has shipped about 1.4 million iPhone 5Ss to China Mobile last week, according to a person familiar with the matter, ahead of the mobile giant’s launch this Friday.

While the initial shipment volume doesn’t represent the total sales at China Mobile for January, the figure helps to gauge early demand for iPhones from China Mobile, the world’s biggest carrier by subscribers with more than 760 million customers.  China Mobile began taking preorders for iPhones since Dec. 25.

“Shipping one million or more iPhones to a single carrier per month is substantial. But we have limited visibility beyond this month as Apple hasn’t informed Foxconn of  the volume for the next shipment to China Mobile,” said the person.”

All eyes will be on the Cupertino company this weekend, and over the next several weeks. Between dismal marketshare and bad publicity, Apple would probably rather forget that 2013 in China ever happened. It needs to turn things around.

And if anyone can do it, it’s China Mobile. The carrier is not only the largest in the country, but with 700+ million subscribers, it’s the largest in the world. So even if Apple only sells iPhones to a tiny fraction of them, it should see solid numbers.

It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out. We’ll likely hear some feedback from Apple on this weekend’s launch during its Q1 2014 earnings conference call, which is scheduled for Monday, January 27 at 2:00pm Pacific / 5pm Eastern Time.