Apple has secured the final government license needed to run the iPhone on China Mobile’s proprietary wireless network. After years of negotiations, this is the latest of several recent signs that Apple may finally be able to release its smartphone through China’s largest carrier. We reported yesterday that cellular device specifications for the iPhone 5C and 5S models also point to variations for both devices that support TD-LTE, the variety of LTE that China Mobile uses.
The license was granted by China’s Telecom Equipment Certification Center, which is overseen by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). If China Mobile does indeed start supporting the iPhone, this will be the first time the device has been released by all three major carriers in China. Landing an agreement with China Mobile is especially important to Apple because it has 740 million users, or more than half of the estimated 1.2 million mobile subscribers in China.
China is Apple’s most important market outside the U.S., but sales of the iPhone have been under pressure there thanks to competition from Android smartphones, which now account for over 70% of smartphone sales, compared to the 22% share held by iOS. In Q2 of this year, Apple posted its biggest quarter ever for the Greater China region, with $8.8 billion in revenues. But in Q3, revenues were down 43%, but still accounted for 14% of the company’s overall revenues.