updated 11:43 pm EST, Thu January 16, 2014
Ten customers win iPhones signed by Apple CEO, China Mobile Chair
Apple's iPhones have formally arrived on China Mobile, the world's largest carrier and China's largest provider. The iPhone went on sale Friday morning in Beijing and other locations, with stores fulfilling long-awaited pre-orders of the iPhone (the 5s in particular) that have been gathered since mid-December. Foxconn is said to have delivered approximately 1.4 million iPhone 5s units to China Mobile recently, possibly an indication of strong pre-orders.
Photos shown on Twitter show crowded China Mobile outlets, though some of the people seen could be news reporters covering the event. Independent Twitter reports confirm that outlets saw crowds and lineups in Beijing and Nanjing outlets, celebrating the arrival of the iPhone with the carrier -- an event Apple has worked for six years to achieve, and which Apple CEO Tim Cook referred to as a "watershed" event for the company.
Cook also revealed, ahead of Apple's upcoming quarterly analysis, that it had sold "record" numbers of iPhones in the most recent quarter. Xi also added that China Mobile had seen "millions" of preorders for the iPhone ahead of the launch on Thursday.
Ten lucky customers on opening day will receive iPhones signed by both Cook and China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua. The carrier, which has over 760 million subscribers, is said to be offering the iPhone 5s only with its top-tier data plans but with subsidies, starting at 588 yuan per month (about $97 US) for a two-year contract -- about the same as its main competitors, China Unicom and China Telecom, which have been selling the iPhone for much longer. Analysts believe Apple could sell as many as 12 million iPhones through China Mobile in 2014, despite its premium pricing.