The company has agreed to sell five million iPhones to Unicom, China's second-largest telecoms provider, in a deal worth $1.46bn (£880m), according to International Business Times. The move would open up the huge Chinese market to Apple and massively increase its current sales.
The deal will see 8GB and 16GB iPhones for sale and customers, as in the rest of the world, will be locked into Unicom's network; a first for the market. Unicom is also expected to roll out a 3G network to support the phones this summer.
Apple's deal is a major step to breaking into the largest and fastest-growing mobile phone market in the world. Since the iPhone is already manufactured in China, the move makes logistical sense, but also allows the company access to a huge potential market.
The phones are reported to be selling for 2,000 yuan ($293, £177) and so will be restricted to China's more wealthy citizens. iPhones are not officially available in the country, but the grey market price for the handsets is significantly lower than the suggested price.
Apple has apparently been in contract discussions with China's largest mobile provider China Mobile, but the carrier reportedly wanted a cut of Apple's App Store margins as part of the deal. Unicom seems to have foregone this in exchange for a chance to take on its rival.
Yu Zaonan, China Unicom's Guangzhou manager, said: "China Unicom will likely catch up with China Mobile if our profits grow by 40 per cent with the boost of iPhones."
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