U.S. giant Apple is trying to expand its iPhone availability in China by offering it through the country’s largest mobile carrier, company officials indicate.
If Apple’s request to offer its popular device through state-owned China Mobile Ltd. is approved, the Cupertino, Calif., company would have access to hundreds of millions of new customers, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
Tim Cook, Apple’s chief operating officer, visited China Mobile’s offices in Beijing last month. While both companies declined to comment to the Journal on Cook’s visit, the carrier confirmed the two companies are in talks about the iPhone.
The effort is Apple’s latest move in the Chinese market and could play a key role in the company’s growth plans, observers said. While Apple has used Chinese factories to assemble its products, it began targeting China’s growing consumer class, opening its first retail stores and marketing its computers, phones and tablets. The company also plans to expand its retail operation.
The iPhone has been available in China through the country’s second-largest carrier, China Unicom Ltd., since 2009, the Journal said. But China Mobile has 600 million subscriber accounts, while China Unicom has fewer than 200 million.
“China has the potential to become the second largest and perhaps even the largest market [for the company] over time,” Shaw Wu, an analyst with Sterne Agee in San Francisco, told the Journal.