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Official: Apple hooks up with WORLD'S LARGEST MOBILE OPERATOR

Not just a casual fling, they've signed a contract and all

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Apple will soon launch a bid to convert more than 700 million new fanbois and gurlz after belatedly inking a deal with the world's largest mobile phone provider.

The announcement comes after almost two years of behind the scenes wrangling between the fruity firm and China Mobile, after Apple's exclusivity contract with China Unicom ended in early 2012.

Just a few days ago, analysts were saying the deal looked unstable, with one saying that it would have to be renegotiated because China didn't like the plastiky iPhone 5C.

However, even though China Mobile boasts approximately 760 million customers - amounting to about one in nine human beings ON THE PLANET - analysts have predicted that Apple will manage to woo just 17 million of them. Still, nothing to sniff at...

In a statement, China Mobile chairman Xi Guohua said: “We know there are many China Mobile customers and potential new customers who are anxiously awaiting the incredible combination of iPhone on China Mobile’s leading network.”

China Mobile will offer both 3G and 4G versions of the phones to customers. It hopes to have covered more than 300 cities with 4G service by the end of 2014.

In a press release, Apple CEO Tim Cook gushed: “Apple has enormous respect for China Mobile and we are excited to begin working together. China is an extremely important market for Apple and our partnership with China Mobile presents us the opportunity to bring iPhone to the customers of the world's largest network."

The analysis firm Forrester predicted that Apple could sell an extra 17 million iPhones through China Mobile, potentially doubling the 16.8 million mobes it flogged this year.

Frank Gillet, analyst, said: "The deal between Apple and China Mobile has been a long time coming, with lots of folks disappointed it didn’t happen in September when the latest iPhones were announced.

"Though Bryan Wang in our Beijing office points out that Apple’s iPhone offerings are very expensive by China standards, starting at about $550 unsubsidised, he also reports that there is lots of interest among China Mobile subscribers. With this deal, we’ll finally find out how far Apple can get in China without offering products that match the prices of Samsung, Huawei, or Xiaomi."

The news will come as a relief to Apple fans and employees. ®

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