Apple iPhone to invade new market after China Mobile deal finalised

Apple has finalised a lucrative deal with the world's largest mobile carrier, China Mobile, that will see the iPhone made available to the network's 760 million subscribers in 2014.

The iPhone was already offered by two other major Chinese carriers, China Unicom and China Telecom, but the tie-up with China Mobile is regarded as the one most likely to help Apple boost its market share in the People's Republic.

"China is an extremely important market for Apple," said Tim Cook, Apple CEO, in a statement.

He added: "Our partnership with China Mobile presents us the opportunity to bring iPhone to the customers of the world's largest network."

Apple has long been looking to woo Chinese mobile enthusiasts, with Cook paying a high-profile visit to China earlier in 2013.

With some 1.2 billion users, China is the world's largest smartphone market, though Apple is currently a relatively small player and sits behind the likes of Samsung, Lenovo, Coolpad, ZTE, and Huawei, according to IDC statistics.

However, Forrester Research analysts predict that the China Mobile deal could significantly boost Apple's fortunes and lead to sales of 15 million iPhones, while Cantor Fitzgerald Research is even more bullish, estimating that 24 million iPhones could be sold next year to China Mobile customers.

"This is one of the biggest partnership announcements Apple has made in the past several years," Manoj Menon, MD of consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, told the BBC.

He added: "It gives them access to more than 10 per cent of the global mobile phone users. It is an incredible growth opportunity for Apple."

Apple hasn't yet revealed how it will be pricing the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C for China Mobile customers, but has confirmed that its devices will be available from 17 January, 2014.

Unlike in much of North America and Europe, Chinese mobile customers are not privy to subsidised phone deals, meaning that the iPhone's hefty price tag has proved a stumbling block for mass adoption.