In the run-up to iPhone 5S/5C launch event, the “cheap” iPhone 5C and its price was a #1 topic of speculation. A close #2 was Apple’s deal with China Mobile.
Why were pundits so obsessed about getting iPhone on one Chinese carrier?
Yes, China Mobile is humongous - it has 740 million subscribers. But most of those subscribers use cheap 2G feature phones and wouldn’t care much about an iPhone. China Mobile’s 3G subscriber base is way smaller – around 180 million. Still a huge number, but majority of those subscribers use cheap $100-200 Androids, and aren’t available to Apple either. And if you look at the combined base of around 150 million 3G subscribers at current Apple partners – China Telecom and China Unicom, you may wonder what the China Mobile fuss was all about.
Well, how about this number? According to Sina Tech, there are 42 million iPhones active on China Mobile network today.
All of those iPhones are grey market devices. And, since China Mobile uses a proprietary TD-SCDMA wireless standard, none of the iPhones can even get a 3G data service there. They are stuck on GPRS/EDGE.
So iPhone 5S and 5C, with TD-SCDMA and TD-LTE support on China Mobile, will be a very big deal. Just current China Mobile iPhone owners upgrading, may number in tens of millions within first six months from launch. Add to that China Mobile contract subsidies and various promotions for new customers, and iPhone 5C’s crazy price doesn’t seem so crazy anymore. That iPhone was never really meant for the worlds biggest smartphone market anyway.
China Mobile’s customers flocking to iPhone 5S alone, should make Apple’s numbers for Q4/Q1.