If you are wondering if the new China Mobile iPhone is making a difference in Apple's bottom line, the Wall Street Journal reported some numbers on Thursday. Chief Executive Li Yue said the company added about one million new iPhone users last month, after it began offering Apple's smartphone -- for the first time -- in mid-January.
Prior to this, Chinese users could only look to China Telecom and China Unicom if they wanted to get an iPhone, although, of course, many unlocked or jailbroken devices were activated on Chinese networks.
The news came just hours after China Mobile, China -- and the world's -- largest wireless carrier reported a decline in annual earnings, its first drop since 1999. Despite that, China Mobile said, were it will work to increase network investments -- its 4G network went live in December of 2013. Costly handset subsidies, such as for the iPhone, could also weigh down 2014 profits.
China Mobile Chairman Xi Gouhua told The Wall Street Journal:
We added 1.34 million new 4G users in February and most of them are iPhone users. We are happy with the progress as we are still building our 4G network and the coverage is only available in some major cities.
One million iPhones sounds great, but China Mobile isn't satisfied, as the number is below their expectations, Xi hinted.
Most of our 1.34 million 4G users are using an iPhone. It's just been getting started for one or two months. So far it's hard to tell how that will affect our business.
China is the world's biggest smartphone market with more than 500 million mobile Internet users. China Mobile's 776 million users made up 62 percent of China's 1.25 billion subscribers in February, but only 28 percent of these are signed to more lucrative 3G contracts, which is by far the lowest percentage of China's three carriers.
China Mobile shares closed down 3.6 percent on Thursday after the earnings were disclosed, versus a 1.8 percent drop in the Hang Seng Index.