The world's largest wireless carrier, China Mobile, will finally get access to the world's single most popular smartphone, the iPhone, on Friday, and they are ready. As Digits reported on Tuesday, a source has told them that Foxconn shipped 1.4 million iPhone 5s devices to China Mobile just last week.
China Mobile began taking preorders for iPhones on Dec. 25. Its smaller rivals, China Telecom and China Unicom, have had access to the iPhone for years.
The anonymous source said:
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.
China Mobile has 760 million customers.
There were technical reasons for the delay, but there may have been other reasons as well. As opposed to China Mobile's homegrown 3G technology (TD-CDMA), China Telecom and China Unicom used more standard 3G tech, with China Unicom offering iPhones since 2009 and China Telecom since 2012.
Analysts have predicted that the China Mobile deal will help Apple sell an additional 10 to 30 million iPhones in 2014. However, a recent report from Wedge Partners said initial indications were that iPhone demand at China Mobile is more tepid than anticipated. This may be because China Mobile is months behind its rivals in terms of a 5s launch. It may also be because there so are many choices for consumers.
Gartner analyst Sandy Shen said:
We have seen fading enthusiasm for iPhones compared with the past few years as we have more choices in China now. There has been no dramatic change to the iPhone and consumers want a larger screen size.
In the third quarter of 2014, Canalys said that Samsung had the top market share in China, with 21 percent, followed by Lenovo’s 13 percent, and two Chinese companies, Yulong and Huawei. Apple was relegated to fifth position with a Chinese market share of 6 percent.
However, Shen added,
Shipping one million or more iPhones to China Mobile every month would be significant to Apple as its average monthly iPhone sales in China is only about two million.