China Mobile sells one million iPhones in February

iPhone 5s side by side gold in front

China Mobile with its 776 million customers is the world’s largest wireless carrier by subscribers and it’s been selling Apple’s iPhone for two months now. So how many iPhone units did the carrier move?

According to media reports Wednesday, China Mobile’s CEO Li Yue has confirmed that his company has managed to add one million new iPhone users last month since offering the device in mid-January.

To give you some context, that’s a nice 75 percent share of the 1.34 million 4G-capable smartphones the carrier moved in February…

The Wall Street Journal has the quote from China Mobile Chairman Xi Gouhua:

We added 1.34 million new 4G users in February and most of them are iPhone users. It’s just been getting started for one or two months. So far it’s hard to tell how that will affect our business.

We are happy with the progress as we are still building our 4G network and the coverage is only available in some major cities.

China Mobile reported its first decline in annual earnings in more than fourteen years due to major capital expenditure in network infrastructure (their 4G launched in mid-December) and handset subsidies.

Reuters adds that China Mobile plans to sell about a hundred million 4G devices and have 50 million 4G users by the end of 2014. Capital spending will peak in 2014 and 2015 before declining in 2016, said China Mobile’s finance chief.

Green iPhone 5c

In addition to China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom have been carrying the iPhone in the 1.33 billion people market for years now. Analysts have estimated that the China Mobile deal could add 15 to 30 million iPhone shipments this year.

Data from the Umeng analytics network proves the iPhone 5s way more popular in China and other markets than the iPhone 5c, which apparently “bombed” in Apple’s second-largest market by revenue.

iPhone model uptake in China

The “unapologetically plastic” handset, as Jony Ive put it, has captured about 12 percent of active iPhones on Umeng’s network in China, or less than one in five iOS devices sold in the country. The iPhone 5c? About two percent of all iPhone sales in China.

Earlier this week, Apple introduced a cheaper 8GB iPhone 5c variant in China and a few other markets in the hope of boosting sales. Unlike many other vendors, Apple reports units sold rather than shipped but does not break down iPhone sales by model.