CUPERTINO, Calif., Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Apple and China Mobile announced a multiyear agreement allowing the Cupertino, Calif., tech giant to offer its iPhone in the world's largest mobile market.
China Mobile, based in Beijing -- the world's largest mobile network with about 760 million subscribers and among the first in the country to win 4G licenses -- said the agreement calls for iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c to be available through its retail stores as well as Apple Retail Stores across the mainland starting Jan. 17.
The iPhone 5s is described as the most forward-thinking smart phone and iPhone 5c the most colorful.
Because of the size of the Chinese market, the agreement could be a big boost to Apple's worldwide sales, analysts told the New York Times.
However, the report said Apple will face challenges in China because of existing competition.
"China is an extremely important market for Apple and our partnership with China Mobile presents us the opportunity to bring iPhone to the customers of the world's largest network," Apple Chief Executive Timothy Cook said in the announcement.
China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua said Apple's iPhone is much loved by customers around the world.
"We know there are many China Mobile customers and potential new customers who are anxiously awaiting the incredible combination of iPhone on China Mobile's leading network," Xi said.
He said iPhone on China Mobile will support its 4G/TD-LTE and 3G/TD-SCDMA networks, providing customers with high-speed mobile service.
Cook said iPhone customers in China are a rapidly growing group and "we can't think of a better way to welcome in the Chinese New Year than getting an iPhone into the hands of every China Mobile customer who wants one."
CNN Money said Apple executives have been looking for a deal with China Mobile for some time, as China is Apple's largest market outside the United States. The report said the iPhone, however, has been facing competition in smartphone sales in China from Samsung and Nokia and several domestic brands offering cheaper varieties.
The report quoted analysts at Cantor Fitzgerald as saying Apple could sell as many as 24 million iPhones to China Mobile in the first calendar year of a deal.
Cook said this year, "I continue to believe that in the arc of time here, China is a huge opportunity for Apple," CNNMoney said.