Apple, China Mobile Still in Talks Over iPhone

At the GSM Association's Mobile Asia Congress, China Mobile's CEO says his company is still in talks with Apple to bring the iPhone to the Chinese market.

Negotiations between Apple and network operator China Mobile are still happening, according to Wang Jianzhou, the chairman and CEO of the company. At the GSM Association's Mobile Asia Congress in Hong Kong on Wednesday, Wang said he thinks the iPhone is a very good phone for consumers and noted the smartphone is very popular with young customers. "China Mobile has continued negotiations with Apple to introduce the iPhone on China Mobile's network," he said. Apple already has a three-year, non-exclusive agreement to sell iPhones to China Unicom.

Wang told reporters at the conference that he hoped the negotiations, which began more than two years ago, would ultimately prove successful, but also noted the company is also focused on expanding consumer options across a variety of handset makes and models. "We really are still in talks with Apple. In our negotiations in the past, we insisted on sticking to our conditions," Wang said, according to the blog The Money Times. "We are still very sincere about completing this negotiation."

In August, rumors surfaced that mobile operator China Unicom had reached a deal with Apple to purchase 5 million iPhones for distribution in China, which was quickly denied by Apple and China Unicom. However, at the end of the month Unicom announced it reached an agreement with Apple to sell the iPhone in the fourth quarter of 2009. Despite an underwhelming start (according to a report in Bloomberg, Unicom sold fewer iPhones than anticipated, due to anoffering price of as high as 7,999 yuan, or $1,172), Unicom chairman Chang Xiaobing told foreign media in Hong Kong the company is "very confident" about the market position of the iPhone.

While Chang admitted sales could have been better in the world's largest mobile phone market, he told Bloomberg Television sales were "acceptable" and the company is now focused on subscriber growth. "In some markets where vendors get their marketing right, the iPhone is already the best-selling smart phone," IDC research analyst Aloysius Choong, told the news service. "Unicom must lower its prices if it wants to access the mass market for the iPhone."

The news comes as the Korea Communications Commission granted Apple a business license to start selling iPhones in South Korea, home to 47 million mobile phone users. The country's top mobile operator, SK Mobile, as well as the nation's number two carrier, KT Corp. are rumored to be the most likely carriers to introduce the smartphone to market, which may go on sale there as early as the end of this month.