NEW YORK and BEIJING -- Apple said it has signed a long-awaited agreement with China Mobile to sell iPhones through the world's biggest network of mobile phone users.
In a deal that could add billions of dollars to its revenue, Apple (AAPL) said its smartphones will be available to China Mobile customers starting Jan. 17. Pricing and availability details for the iPhone 5S and 5C lines will be disclosed at a later date, it said in a statement.
China Mobile, which has about 760 million customers, will begin registering orders for iPhone from Dec. 25, the company said on its account on the Sina-Weibo microblogging service.
The tie-up provides a much-needed boost for Apple in a country where it's trailing rivals, even though China is its second-largest market after the U.S. It will also give Apple extra firepower in its intensifying global competition with South Korea's Samsung Electronics.
Apple didn't disclose financial terms of the agreement. Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive, said in its statement that China is an extremely important market for the Cupertino, Calif.-based company.
In a country where smartphone sales are booming, Apple has trailed its competitors. Shipments of iPhones in the country grew 32 percent year-on-year for the third quarter, about half of China's Lenovo Group, which had the next slowest growth at 64 percent year-on-year.
China Mobile could gain 17 million new iPhone activations in 2014 alone, according to research firm Forrester -- more than the 16.8 million iPhones Apple sold in mainland China for the 12 months ended September, according to Forrester data.
But after an expected initial surge, Apple is likely to find itself back in a costly marketing battle with Samsung Electronics.
The deal has been years in the making, %VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%with numerous visits by Apple to the state-owned carrier's Beijing headquarters. Negotiations have been tricky, in part because of disagreements over details like revenue-sharing, analysts have said.
China Mobile was the only Chinese carrier not to offer customers the iPhone up to now due to compatibility issues with the carrier's 3G wireless technology, known as TD-SCDMA.
On Dec. 4, Chinese regulators awarded 4G wireless licenses to China Mobile, China Unicom Hong Kong and China Telecom, removing the final stumbling block to a deal that industry observers had long expected. The latest iPhone models support 4G technology known as TD-LTE.
China Mobile estimates it does already have about 45 million iPhone users on its network. But these subscribers can only use the company's slower 2G wireless speeds because of the incompatibility with its proprietary 3G technology.
Shares of Apple closed at $549.02 in New York on Friday. In Hong Kong, China Mobile shares were up 1.3 percent at midday Monday, outperforming the broader Hang Seng index which was up 0.7 percent.
-Additional reporting by Adam Rose in Beijing.
Apps That Manage Your Money For You
Apple Strikes Long-Awaited Deal with China Mobile
Mint made the Mac App Store's Best of 2012 list for a reason. This simple, clean app shows how much you are spending in each category of your budget by monitoring all of your transactions. We love signing in and getting a quick, dirty rundown of where our money has gone over the last week, and using their personalized budget tools to stay on track. We highly recommend adjusting your budgets for summer months. You might spend less on transportation when the weather is nice, and chances are you could use that extra cash to flesh out that restaurant tab, right?
This is the all-in-one financial organizer. Manage all of your accounts, from credit cards to magazine subscriptions, in one place and even make custom accounts for your rent or cleaning service. Get reminders for bill payments, and monitor all of your travel reward points, too. You'll always know what you owe, how much money you have and can plan for upcoming bills and expenses without having to sift through tons of paperwork.
If you want to isolate the expense tracker function of Mint in a super simple day-to-day app, then DailyCost is a great buy. A wide variety of categories lets users input all of their daily expenses. Holding your phone horizontally, you will be able to see graphs and statistics on your spending. The app also tracks your weekly and monthly spending by category and can be backed up to iCloud for Mac users, so you'll never lose your data.
If you're a heavy traveler, Toshl is an excellent expense and budget tracker. It works with any currency and lets you separate your travel budget from your day-to-day expenses. It comes with all the trappings of a regular money management app, too, such as bill organizer and alerts, and can be synced across all your devices.
Next time you organize a group activity, Tricount will split up the expenses for you. Create the expense report on your phone and organize by person, how much they owe, and then share via email so everyone knows their share. With options for expenses, balance, share, and configuration, the app does all of the math for you.
Never miss a bill payment again. This app reminds you when your payments are due, and lets you pay on the spot from a bank account or credit card, or you can schedule a payment for the future. Connect all of your accounts to the encrypted app and then view them all in one place for easy access and payment options. You'll never overdraft or miss a payment again.
Make and share payments with friends. This app uses the same technology to pay as LivingSocial, Uber and Airbnb. Pay with your debit card or transfer funds from a linked bank account, right to a friend's Venmo account. It is Verisign Certified.