Katy Huberty of Morgan Stanley issued a note to investors over the weekend that indicated Apple’s current partnership with China Unicom only gave the company access to around 10 percent of the country’s 150 million or so “high end” mobile phone customers.
Apple will, Huberty predicts, partner with China Mobile and China Telecom over the next year, which would lead to a worst-case scenario of 26 million sales in the country in 2013, and a best case of 40 million sales.
China Mobile is currently the provider in the country with the vast majority of what Huberty sees as the high end subscribers. In fact, it already has around 10 million iPhones on its network already, but the company does not officially sell the device, meaning users are restricted to using 2G networks.
However, China Mobile’s plans to roll out a 4G TD-LTE network are at an advanced stage and Huberty thinks that the next-generation iPhone, expected to launch in the summer or autumn of this year, will be compatible.
China Telecom, though, is likely to officially launch the iPhone before China Mobile, according to Morgan Stanley. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said that the carrier will roll the device out in the next few months.
“Given that we’ve just launched [the iPhone 4S] in China, I would say that demand there has been staggering; we are selling through our reseller stores and our online stores, we’re not currently selling through a retail store, and the demand is off the charts, and so we’re very happy with the demand response there,” Cook said during last week’s quarterly earnings call.