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Analysts split on significance of Apple's China Mobile deal

World’s largest mobile provider to start selling iPhones today

Some analysts say Apple may see as little as a 10m-unit bump in 2014 sales from China Mobile subscribers.
Some analysts say Apple may see as little as a 10m-unit bump in 2014 sales from China Mobile subscribers.

China Mobile Ltd is to start selling iPhones today, but analysts are split as to exactly how significant this will be for Cupertino-based Apple, Forbes reported.

China Mobile is the world's largest mobile operator by subscribers and operates in the world's largest smartphone market. Apple already has deals in place with China Unicom, which has a subscriber base of 250m and China Telecom, with 181m. But both are dwarfed by China mobile and its 755m customers.

The agreement has been long sought by Apple, which is keen to draw on the untapped Asian mega-market, but analysts are split on how much Apple will be able to capitalise on the partnership. Relatively low average incomes will prevent many from making such an expensive purchase, even wit a subsidised price. Some customers may churn from China Unicom or China Telecom, but as they will likely swap an older model iPhone for the 5S, Apple's hardware base will not expand significantly enough to excite investors.

Most analysts estimate a sales bump for 2014 of 20m-25m units for Apple through China Mobile, but estimates vary from as low as 10m from Merrill Lynch to 38.7m from ISI.