I noticed two headlines today that don’t bode well for Apple’s efforts to tap the world’s most promising smartphone market: China Mobile President Li Yue said that technology isn’t the only reason the carrier doesn’t offer the iPhone, noting also that “there’s also mainly the issue of business model and mutual benefits.” And the state-run China Daily posted a story indicating China Mobile is planning to develop a line of mobile phones and accessories under its own brand.
While the China Daily story also quotes a China Mobile executive vaguely confirming plans to cooperate with Apple, these two stories are undeniably bad news for the maker of the iPhone. Apple watched its share of the Chinese smartphone market shrivel earlier this year due largely to the lack of support by China Mobile, which is the country’s biggest carrier but which operates a network that is incompatible with the iPhone. That is likely to change as the carrier moves to 4G — it plans to release its variant of the TD-LTE standard later this month — and it’s certainly in China Mobile’s best interest to carry the iPhone. But if China Mobile doesn’t make it a priority to sell the iPhone, Apple will struggle in what is quickly becoming the world’s largest smartphone market.