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One more thing ... Beijing green lights iPhone in China

Lucrative tie-up would give Cupertino access to over 700m subscribers

Photo of the iPhone 5S in various colors

Apple's infamously stage-managed launch events have been upstaged by China's government, which let it be known the fruity phone company has been granted a license to operate its new iPhone 5S and 5C models on China Mobile’s forthcoming 4G network after its Beijing launch yesterday.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) released a network access certification document (via TechInAsia) dated 30 August on its site on Wednesday, leaving Apple with little of interest to say at the Beijing bash it staged hours ealier.

Apple has been sniffing round China Mobile for several years and with good reason – the carrier is the world’s largest with over 700 million subscribers, more than double the population of the United States.

In the beginning it was Apple in the driving seat, with Steve Jobs refusing to sanction the production of a separate iPhone handset to work on China Mobile’s proprietary TD-SCDMA network.

However, over the past year or so with the huge growth in popularity of home-grown Android-based handsets from the likes of Huawei, Lenovo, Xiaomi and others, as well as the continuing pulling power of Samsung Galaxy devices, Apple has found itself with waning market share in China. Apple has also found itself under attack from the nation's government, after stories critical of the company appeared in state-run press.

CEO Tim Cook has met with China Mobile execs several times since he took over the reins at Cupertino and with the latest iPhone models now supporting the TD-LTE standard China Mobile favours, it appears a long-awaited deal is on the cards.

China-based analysts The Reg has spoken to believe that to be the case. Forrester’s Bryan Wang told El Reg that China Mobile might be waiting until its 4G network is up and running before it actually makes the announcement – that could be as early as Q4 this year.

Despite disappointing yesterday with a lack of China-specific news, the Middle Kingdom is still massively important to the fruity tech giant’s future success.

However, it may have to lower the price of its new handsets by at least 1,000 yuan (£100) if it wants to compete with its local rivals at the mid to high-end of the world’s largest smartphone market. ®

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