China Unicom was Apple’s first iPhone partner in China. The companies have a three-year contract that is due to run out later this month.
China Unicom’s president Lu Yimin said that Unicom and Apple have both been “extremely satisfied” with the terms of their arrangement over the past three years. He revealed that his company is discussing extending its partnership with Apple and that he is “confident” that Apple will agree.
Apple has become China Unicom’s largest handset partner in terms of devices shipped.
Apple also has a partnership with China Telecom, the third largest mobile operator in the 1.3 billion strong country.
Apple is also in talks with China Mobile, according to the carrier’s chairman Xi Guohua, although an agreement is yet to be reached. China Mobile has 667.2 million mobile-phone subscribers, a vast new market for Apple’s iPhone.
China Mobile’s 3G network is not currently compatible with the iPhone, which is why, until now, the operator hasn’t offered Apple’s phone. However, according to reports, the company already has 15 million iPhone users in the country who are operating the phone on the company’s 2G network.
At WWDC Apple demonstrated how important it believes the Chinese market to be by promising that new Chinese features will appear in both OS X Mountain Lion and iOS and telling developers to get their apps ready for China. According to analysts, China is a significant investment for Apple and key to its long term growth.