Apple's China iPhone unveiling came and went yesterday without an official announcement of an iPhone deal with China Mobile.
But there are still strong indications that the devices are finally officially coming to the world's largest mobile operator by subscribers.
China’s Telecom Equipment Certification Center yesterday revealed it has granted Apple a network access license covering a smartphone that runs on the mobile standards used in China Mobile's 3G and 4G networks, the Wall Street Journal reported.
This would clear the way for China Mobile and Apple to sell iPhones directly to the operator's 700 million mobile customers.
The approval follows reports that Apple and China Mobile were close to finally reaching a deal on carrier subsidies for the iPhone, after years of stalled negotiations.
It should be noted that the Bloomberg article detailing these rumors did state that a deal with China Mobile was unlikely to be announced at yesterday's event.
Apple has meanwhile drawn criticism for its pricing strategy for the new “lower cost” iPhone 5C, particularly in China. Analysts have argued that Apple has not gone far enough to counter competition from sub-$200 devices.
The iPhone 5C will go on sale in China for an unsubsidized price of 4,488 yuan ($733), and the iPhone 5S will retail for 5,288 yuan ($864).
Chinese news outlets and consumers on social media have been critical about these prices, ABC News reported. While Apple remains a premium brand, the prices are seen as potentially too steep to make a significant impact on the vendor's share of the market.
Separately, another noteworthy former iPhone holdout, NTT DoCoMo, has already confirmed it will launch both the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5C in Japan on September 20. The operator will start taking preorders tomorrow.