Rumor Mill: China to be among first markets for iPhone 5S/iPhone 5C
China Telecom may have jumped the gun. On Sina's Weibo microblog, the No. 3 Chinese carrier posted a page for advance orders for the iPhone 5S and 5C, which Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is widely expected to announce at a media event Tuesday at its headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.
The post has since been deleted, but it noted that China would be one of the first markets to get the new iPhones. Customers who wanted to get the phones on the first day possible were directed to follow a link to a preorder page.
Apple confirmed earlier this week it would hold a satellite event in Beijing on Sept. 11 (as well as satellite events in Berlin and Tokyo). The Beijing event likely indicates Apple will launch a product in China at almost the same time as in the United States. China is the largest smartphone market in the world, and Apple has been losing share there to the likes of Samsung Electronics, Lenovo and others, notes Bloomberg.
In the past, Apple has released new iPhone models in China months after they went on sale in the United States and other western markets. However, that appears to be changing. According to a Reuters report, which cited unnamed sources, China Unicom and China Telecom will get the iPhones days after they are announced. Apple is expected to unveil a high-end iPhone 5S and a mid-range iPhone 5C with multiple colored plastic casings.
"There used to be a wait of a few months before Apple launches their latest products in China, but nowadays, China is too important a market for Apple and so it will be the first batch of markets to start selling the low and high-end iPhones next week," an unnamed a source at one of the telecom carriers told Reuters.
It's still unclear if Apple will announce a deal with China Mobile, the world's largest operator with more than 740 million total subscribers. Such a deal could be a boon to Apple's bottom line. Both Reuters and the Japanese newspaper Nikkei reported that NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest carrier, will start selling the iPhone this fall after losing share to smaller rivals KDDI and SoftBank, which already have deals with Apple.
Pacific Crest analyst Andy Hargreaves wrote in a research note that the new iPhones could drive significant sales to Apple, especially if deals with China Mobile and DoCoMo are in place. He wrote that iPhone sales for the quarter that ends at the end of September could reach 31 million, but that Apple will have a blowout December quarter, with sales of at least 50 million units.
"We expect Apple to launch two new iPhones at its Sept. 10 event, an iPhone 5S and an iPhone 5C, which we believe is essentially an iPhone 5 with a different case," Hargreaves wrote, according to AllThingsD. "We expect these refreshes, along with the potential for incremental distribution of the iPhone, to drive improved unit volume, stabilized gross margin and accelerating operating profit in the coming quarters."
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