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Apple's iPad Mini, iPhone 5 head to China

November 30, 2012 02:30 PM ET

Together, China Telecom and China Unicom have a 3G mobile subscriber base of about 133 million.

Greater China, an Apple sales region composed of the People's Republic, Hong Kong and Taiwan, accounts for a large share of Apple's total revenue. In the company's 2012 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 29 2012, Greater China generated $23.8 billion, or 17% of all Apple sales for the year.

During the July-September quarter, China revenues were up 26% over the same period the year before.

But Apple sales in Greater China have stalled recently as economic growth there has slowed. Earlier this month, for example, research firm Canalys said that in the third quarter Apple fell off the Chinese smartphone market's top-five list after placing fifth and second in the two previous quarters.

Both White and Brian Marshall of the ISI Group believe the iPhone 5 will reverse that trend, with White arguing that the redesigned phone will be the new status symbol in China, prompting upgrades from owners of the iPhone 4 and 4S. Marshall noted that the iPhone 5 is the first Apple smartphone able to run on all three of China's biggest carriers.

Marshall also pointed out that the American company has still not tapped the most lucrative market on the mainland. "[A] big question remains however ... when will China Mobile, the world's largest carrier with 700 million wireless subscribers, start selling the iPhone?" he told his clients in a research note Friday. "Our best guess is 2H13 as two main negotiating points remain: 1) carrier subsidy levels, and 2) joint marketing costs."

Analysts, however, have been predicting an impending partnership between Apple and China Mobile for years, to no avail.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at Twitter@gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed Keizer RSS. His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

Read more about Mobile/Wireless in Computerworld's Mobile/Wireless Topic Center.



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