China Mobile has announced that there are now 15 million iPhone users in that country, up 5 million since last October, according to Sina Tech. That is roughly 35,000 new iPhones being activated per day – which is interesting because the state-owned China Mobile doesn’t yet support a 3G mobile network that supports iPhone, and doesn’t even sell the device. All of the 15 million iPhone users so far have been on China Mobile’s 2G network, as Apple has not yet been able to work around the existing 3G network in the region. China Mobile claims this will be fixed when it completes LTE networking testing in June.
With 665 million customers, China Mobile is the largest telecommunications company in the world, and with its 2G service to offer to iPhone users, it still dominates in the 1 billion plus member mobile market. Apple has had an exclusive deal to sell the iPhone through China Unicom, but this ends Friday, when the iPhone 4s will commence being sold through China Telecom. Morgan Stanley predicted last year that China Telecom might sell 2-4 million iPhones in 2012, and puts Unicom at 15 million – if China Mobile were to get its network in order, it could sell 24 million devices.
As of now, with most iPhone users in China settling for a 2G network, revenues from apps that can’t be had sans 3G have also been affected. And the fact that iPhone users are willing to go 2G just to stay with China Mobile shows the extent of the company’s popularity in that country.
In related news, a counterfeiter was recently stabbed in China for selling a fake iPhone.