China Mobile Has 10 Million iPhone Users Despite Not Officially Offering It
China Mobile could be described as the T-Mobile of the East. Their high-speed network isn't compatible with the iPhone, but that hasn't stopped some 10 million users from using the phone on the network according to Reuters.
China Mobile subscribers using an iPhone can still use slower 2G GSM/EDGE data speeds much like their Western T-Mobile brethren. However, unlike T-Mobile, China Mobile is actively working on a solution to bring official iPhone support to the 600 million+ subscribers on their network.
Apple needs to get on that. Like Now.
"We have not yet got agreement with Apple. Apple promised to provide, when they develop the iPhone for LTE, that it will include TD-LTE. We are discussing the details." — China Mobile Chairman Wang Jianzhou.
Jianzhou already made comments earlier this year regarding secret meetings held with Steve Jobs about bringing the iPhone to the largest cellphone carrier in the world. However, most of China Mobile's users are lower-end users who only text and make phone calls. If Apple were to introduce a low-cost iPhone (the current iPhone 4) compatible with China Mobile's network the payout could potentially be huge. But, the downside for Chinese telecoms is a subscriber base unable to afford the high cost of data packages required of higher-end smartphones and the result has been falling revenues after subsidizing handsets from Samsung and HTC.
Apple has been vocal about the Chinese market being essential to the company's growth. In order for that growth to be fully realized Apple needs to make the iPhone available on more than China Unicom's network. Shareholders, analysts, and the markets would most likely embrace the move, and forget about last quarter's incredibly healthy albeit "disappointing" financial numbers. Also, it opens up another massive market for app developers and jailbreak community.