updated 09:43 am EST, Tue January 14, 2014
Apple, China Mobile may be anticipating high demand
China Mobile has taken in a shipment of approximately 1.4 million iPhone 5s units from Foxconn, sources tell the Wall Street Journal. Mobile is set to launch its own iPhone sales on Friday, after years of losing sales to China Unicom and China Telecom. One Journal source comments that shipping over a million units to a single carrier in a month is "substantial," but at the same time notes that he/she has no information about demand beyond this month. Allegedly, Apple hasn't notified Foxconn about its goal for the next shipment.
China Mobile is the largest phone carrier in the world, with over 763 million subscribers. 1.4 million is therefore just a fraction of its userbase, but the iPhone is also far more expensive than most Chinese can afford, especially since the device is only sold contract-free in the country at a price higher than an unlocked US model. Consequently, selling over a million would be a sign of very strong demand.
For some time, in fact, China Mobile subscribers have been willing to pay for unlocked iPhones from Hong Kong and use them on the carrier's network. Mobile provided compatible plans, but until recently had no iPhone-compatible high-speed data network. When building out 3G the carrier opted for a proprietary standard, TD-SCDMA, which would've required an exclusive iPhone model. Mobile now has an iPhone-compatible LTE network, removing a fundamental barrier to device sales.