After years of smartphone rumors compounded by false starts and technology gossip, Apple finally seems to have found a friend in China Mobile.
During Apple's announcement today of the advanced iOS 7, Apple unveiled its low-cost iPhone 5C which the company says will launch in China. Apple already works with China Telecom and China Unicom, but a deal with the behemoth China Mobile and its 725+ million subscribers has been elusive.
The iPhone 5C appears to seal the deal between Apple and China Mobile. The phone is economical, it runs on China Mobile's latest 4G LTE network, and recent reports from local media state a deal has already been made between the companies.
Apple's marriage to China Mobile was never going to be easy, as witnessed by the companies' history together.
Almost five years ago, on October 8, 2008, we reported at ChinaTechNews.com that the chairman of China Mobile said the "iPhone is not the only choice for Chinese consumers". The leader of the largest telecommunications company in China made the face-saving remarks after rumored negotiations between Apple and China Mobile broke down.
A year previously, in 2007, China Mobile's CEO Wang Jianzhou said that "Apple's iPhone business model does not suit China", at which point Apple signed a sales agreement with D.Phone, one of China's largest electronics retailers, for the sale of unlocked iPhones in mainland China.
But fast-forward two years to late 2009 when Apple finally does sign a deal with a big Chinese telecom operator. Only this time Apple chooses China Unicom. We wrote four years ago that Apple's strategy in China with China Unicom might be a gamble since the country was already filled with grey market iPhones. Plus, China Mobile had just a few months previously launched a competing smartphone system called the oPhone.
Fortunately for Apple, the oPhone handsets never seemed to do well for China Mobile. The partnership with China Unicom also seemed strained as Unicom in 2011 launched a Linux-based smartphone service to rival its Apple partnership.
With backstabbing friends like that, Apple probably felt like it needed to do something swift, so it signed a deal with China Telecom, a smaller mobile services provider in China, for the launch in 2012 of the CDMA iPhone 4S.
Now, after years of tiptoeing around each other, Apple and China Mobile have apparently finally locked lips.