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Finally: Apple inks iPhone deal with the world's largest carrier, China Mobile

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China's largest wireless carrier -- and thus the world's -- China Mobile, has finally signed a deal with Apple, the Wall Street Journal announced late Wednesday. With that, 700 million subscribers will have an opportunity, later this month, to opt into the world's best-selling single handset, the iPhone.

It's unclear how Chinese consumers will react to the deal, though. A recent Gartner report said that 41 percent of global Android sales were made in China, where buyers were switching from feature phones to smartphones, in droves.

Timing is still unclear, too. However, according to two people familiar with China Mobile's plans, the release could come around the time of a Dec. 18 China Mobile conference in Guangzhou.

Although financial concerns surely delayed the introduction of the iPhone on China Mobile's network, technical issues were present, too. China Mobile relies on proprietary / less-adopted technologies such as TD-SCDMA and FDD-LTE on its network. The companies smaller rivals, China Unicom and China Telecom, have had access to the iPhone for some time.

To put the carrier's size into perspective, the largest U.S. carrier is Verizon Wireless. China Mobile has a subscriber base that is seven times as large as Verizon's.

The move was expected, and for some time. It wasn't just the fact that China Mobile has a huge subscriber base. Back in September, it was reported that the Chinese regulator, Telecom Equipment Certification Center, had granted approval for both the iPhone 5s and 5c.

In early trading on Thursday morning, Apple stock was up about 1.15 percent, to $571.52, as word of the news spread.

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