* Near-simultaneous launch in China a first for Apple
* News leaks online of iPhone 5S and lower-end 5C model
* iPhone 5S with TD-LTE could help close deal with China
By Lee Chyen Yee
Sept 6 Chinese telecom carriers China Unicom
Hong Kong Ltd and China Telecom Corp Ltd
will carry Apple Inc's newest iPhone models within days
of their launch in Beijing next week as the U.S. technology
giant tries to regain lost ground in its second-biggest market
by releasing the phones faster.
Apple said earlier this week it was holding a satellite
event in Beijing on Sept. 11, the day after it is expected to
unveil its latest iPhones in the United States. The Sept. 11
event is the first time Apple will launch in China at almost the
same time as in the United States, underscoring the importance
of the Chinese smartphone market, the biggest in the world.
"There used to be a wait of a few months before Apple
launches their latest products in China, but nowadays, China is
too important a market for Apple and so it will be the first
batch of markets to start selling the low and high-end iPhones
next week," said a source at one of the telecom carriers, who
declined to be identified as he was not authorised to speak to
The high-end version is being called the iPhone 5S and the
low-end version is the 5C.
China Unicom and China Telecom, the mainland's second and
third-biggest mobile carriers respectively with a combined 266
million subscribers, are Apple's carrier partners in China, the
world's biggest mobile phone market with more than 1 billion
China Mobile Ltd is the only carrier without an
iPhone contract, although it has been rumored in the market
Apple and China Mobile may soon come to an agreement.
Apple's high-end 5S model may support a 4G technology called
TD-LTE, which could pave the way for an agreement with China
Mobile, which has more than double the subscribers of China
Unicom and Telecom combined.
Officials with all three carriers declined to comment.
Days after the launch in Beijing, both of Apple's current
Chinese carriers will accept pre-orders. It will take about a
week for them to deliver the new iPhones to their customers, the
News of the iPhone debuts leaked on Sina Corp's
Weibo microblog, which briefly carried a pre-order advertisement
for the latest models on China Telecom's verified page in
Beijing. The post was quickly taken down, although word had
already spread among bloggers, many of whom posted screenshots
of the announcement.
"Have you prepared your cash to welcome the iPhone 5S and
5C? I'm looking forward to it," said a Sina microblogger.
Over the past few quarters, Apple's China market share has
dwindled due to stiff competition from global rivals like
Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and domestic players
selling phones that cost a fraction of the iPhone.
Its second-quarter market share slipped to 5 percent and was
ranked No.7, trailing Samsung, Lenovo Group Ltd,
Yulong Computer, ZTE Corp , Huawei
Technologies Co Ltd and Xiaomi, according to research
firm Canalys. Apple's iPhones had a market share of 8 percent,
making it the No.5 vendor, in the first quarter, Canalys said.
"It's a very good direction that Apple is launching its
latest model so soon in China when its brand attraction is on
the decline," said Nicole Peng, an analyst at Canalys. "It is a
sign that they value the Chinese consumers."
In another sign that its Chinese sales were faltering,
Apple's greater China revenue for its fiscal quarter ending June
plunged 43 percent from the previous period and 14 percent from
the same quarter last year to around $5 billion.