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Monday, March 03, 2008, 10:00 am PT (01:00 pm ET)

No talks held between Apple, China mobile over current iPhone

Contrary to earlier reports, Apple and China Mobile have not yet entered into negotiations to bring the iPhone to the world's largest mobile network, suggesting such talks are only likely closer to the release of a 3G version of the touchscreen handset later this year.

"We have not yet officially begun talks with Apple over the iPhone problem," China Mobile Chief Executive Wang Jianzhou told a group of reporters this week. "As long as our customers want this kind of product, we will keep all options open."

In January, Reuters cited a spokesperson for the Chinese carrier as saying that the two firms had "terminated talks," a notion later disputed by Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, who insisted that those reports were simply untrue.

Separately, AppleInsider has heard rumblings that such negotiations are only likely to manifest closer to the release of a 3G-equipped iPhone, as Apple will reportedly forgo any plans to launch the slower, first-generation handset in the vast and competitive Chinese market at current pricing.

As of last month, China Mobile maintained a subscriber base in excess of 375 million — more than the population of the United States and by far the largest in the world. Additionally, its said to be providing service to some 400,000 first-generation iPhones that have been unlocked and smuggled into China for those subscribers unwilling to wait on official availability.

Still, several obstacles are expected to stand in the way of an official iPhone rollout in China, mainly that the device currently fetches more than twice the monthly salary of the average Chinese worker, and that Chinese carriers such as China Mobile are unlikely to see eye-to-eye on Apple's revenue sharing demands.