Citing sources it did not identify, the Journal said Apple agreement is near, following years of negotiations with China Mobile Ltd., which has 700 million subscribers -- seven times the size of Verizon Wireless, the largest U.S. carrier.
Apple is expected to launch two new iPhones Tuesday -- a high-end model and a more modestly priced product, sources close to the company said.
The company is expected to ship the cheaper phone to China, the Journal reported.
A source said Apple has told its main Chinese supplier, Foxconn, to include China Mobile on its list of wholesale customers. However, it remained uncertain whether a deal between Apple and China Mobile had been signed.
Apple's market share for smartphones in China in the fiscal third quarter slipped to 5 percent, putting it in seventh place in the country, well behind market leader Samsung, which has 18 percent share of the market, the Journal reported.
Apple sales in the quarter ending June 29 were down 14 percent from the same quarter of 2012, the Journal said.