Apple may have secured a deal with China Mobile, the world’s largest wireless carrier, to sell the iPhone 5C when it launches later this month. According to sources speaking with The Wall Street Journal, the two companies have come to terms in what has been a long-awaited deal for the Cupertino company. China Mobile is one enormous feather in Apple’s cap if it intends on making the iPhone 5C an overseas phenomenon.
It’s unclear if a verbal or formal agreement has been made, but it’s becoming clear Apple will push its iPhone 5C—hard—in China; the carrier currently has over 700 million subscribers, which is seven times that of Verizon Wireless in the U.S. With Apple set to introduce the iPhone 5C next week, along with an iPhone 5S, it’s unclear how soon the company’s cheaper handset will be available in China. Apple has allegedly already instructed Foxconn to send units China Mobile’s way, suggesting a launch is imminent.
Always rumored as a seamless segue into emerging markets, Apple’s cheaper iPhone 5C will supposedly come with iPhone 5-like features, with one major difference: build materials. The handset will allegedly feature a polycarbonate shell in a variety of colors, allowing Apple to lower the price because of component and manufacturing costs. It’s a clear strategic move, and if China Mobile is onboard, it appears Apple’s plan could pay off in a big way.
In the U.S., Apple’s iPhone is still one of the most popular phones on the market—overseas is a different story. With hundreds of millions of potential customers, the scale could tip back in Apple’s favor. “The cheaper iPhone is definitely a game changer,” said TZ Wong, a China smartphone analyst for IDC. “For Apple, this will be an inflection point.
Apple’s China event is scheduled for Sept. 11, one day after the company’s official unveiling in Cupertino. We might not see an immediate impact once the devices finally launch, but one analyst believes market share could get a 13 percent boost when the iPhone 5C becomes available in China and more importantly, China Mobile.
“For Apple’s less expensive iPhone to really work, it’s critical for Apple to make it happen with China Mobile,” said Nicole Peng, Canalys research director in China.