Shanghai - The China release of its iPhone 5 on Friday should win Apple some respite from a recent slide in its share of what is likely already the world's biggest smartphone market, but its longer-term hopes may depend on new technology being tested by China's top telecoms carrier.
Cupertino, California-based Apple has been in talks about a tie-up with China Mobile for four years. A deal with China's biggest carrier is seen as crucial to improve Apple's distribution in a market of 290 million users - which is forecast to double this year.
China is Apple's second-largest and fastest-growing market - it brings in around 15 percent of total revenue - but the company's failure to strike a deal with China Mobile means it is missing out on a large number of phone users. As the China pie grows, Apple's sales increase, but without China Mobile, it's losing ground at a faster rate compared to other brands.
“In absolute terms, this (iPhone 5) launch will certainly result in strong sales for Apple in China. However, in relative terms, I don't believe it will move the needle enough in market share,” said Shiv Putcha, a Mumbai-based analyst at Ovum, a global technology consultant.
China Mobile and Apple initially said they were separated only by a technical issue - as the Chinese carrier runs a different 3G network from most of the world - but that has evolved into a broader and more complex issue of revenue-sharing.
“China Mobile and Apple still have to solve many issues, such as the business model, articles of cooperation and revenue division, but I believe we will reach an agreement eventually,” China Mobile CEO Li Yue was reported by Chinese media as saying in Guangzhou last week.
Apple China declined to comment. China Mobile said it had no update to the Apple discussions. -Reuters
* Apple’s iPhone 5 went on sale in SA on Friday with the base model costing about R8 200