China Mobile still in iPhone talks with Apple

Thu, Mar 19, 2009


In a statement released today, China Mobile executive director, Wang Jianzhou, said that China Mobile is still in talks with Apple to bring the iPhone to China.

Initial talks to bring the iPhone to China via China Mobile were roadblocked by Apple’s insistence that it take a share of the monthly revenue from each iPhone user. But Apple eliminated revenue sharing when it released the iPhone 3G, and the iPhone in China soon seemed inevitable – “seemed” being the operative word.

China Mobile is the biggest phone provider on the planet, and it remains unclear as to why a deal with Apple has yet to be worked out. Some reports suggest that China Mobile would only be willing to release a crippled iPhone 3G that couldn’t access WiFi networks. Another issue we reported on a month ago has to deal with China Mobile’s insistence that it be granted partial control over the iTunes App Store. According to TMT China:

The third and final round of negotiations also broke down over Apple’s insistence that it, rather than China Mobile, sell iPhone applications directly to customers via its online store. Wang [edit: Wang is the President of China Mobile] saw the offer as a threat to China Mobile’s dominance of China’s mobile Internet industry, as Apple rather than China Mobile would collect money directly from customers under the deal.

“Wang said China Mobile should operate the application store itself in order to maintain its advantage,” the source said.

Wang also pointed out that iPhone users in other parts of the world pay for applications by credit card, a model which would not be successful in China, where users prefer to pay through deposits in their mobile phone accounts. Under the latter arrangement, China Mobile would have to play a part in administering the purchase of iPhone applications in China, the source said.

Most recently, reports have indicated that Apple was re-directing its China efforts from China Mobile to China Unicom, China’s second largest mobile provider. China Unicom has over 150 million phone subscribers, so a deal with them would still be a significant boon for Apple. For all we know, Apple’s overtures towards China Unicom have lured China Mobile back to the negotiating table, and with over 600 million phone subscribers to their name, Apple is undoubtedly working to bring the iPhone to China any which way it can.


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