Apple Inc. announced Sunday that it has finalized a deal to sell the iPhone through China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile phone carrier.
The deal has been in the works for years as Apple sought to gain a stronger foothold in this crucial smartphone market. Apple has been selling the iPhone through smaller carriers in China, but the reach of these companies collectively still left Apple as the fifth-largest seller of smartphones in the country
Although Apple’s new product launches tend to draw the most frenzied attention, analysts have long said a deal with China Mobile was the single most important thing the company could do to reignite its rate of growth, which had been slowing over the last year.
“Apple has had the Wall Street monkey on their back to show growth, either expanding their current products via distribution or via a new category product like a watch, TV or convertible,” said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. “The China Mobile deal is huge for Apple because it provides what they’ve never had: broad distribution in China with the country’s largest carrier.”
The iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c will go on sale Jan. 17 through China Mobile and Apple stores in China.
Apple has been steadily losing market share around the world, and specifically in China, to competitors that sell Android-based phones. Apple ranks fifth in China in smartphone sales, trailing Samsung, Huawei, Lenovo and Yulong.