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With China Unicom deal official, Apple turns to China Mobile


When Apple's iPhone enters the Chinese cell phone market later this year in a non-exclusive deal with China Unicom, it could only be the beginning, as the handset maker reportedly already has its sights set on another carrier.

A new report from PC World Business Center states that Apple is in talks with China Mobile, the world's largest cell phone carrier. In a nation with an estimated 700 million mobile subscribers, China Mobile carries the lion's share, with more than 475 million as of March. A spokeswoman for the carrier confirmed the company is in talks with Apple to carry the iPhone, though an agreement has not been made.

The news comes as Apple confirmed Monday that its recently announced agreement with China Unicom is not exclusive, unlike contracts for the debut of the device in other countries across the world. But China is also a much bigger market: With its 700 million subscribers, there are more cell phone customers in China than in the U.S. and Europe combined.

Earlier this year, Apple and China Mobile were in talks, but could not reach an agreement, as the wireless carrier reportedly had issues with the iPhone App Store. At the time, it was said that China Mobile wanted direct control of the App Store, including the collection of payments. In addition, PC World said that China Mobile's proprietary 3G network is not compatible with the current iPhone hardware.

"The App Store and 3G standard snags could remain in any talks," the report said. "The China Mobile download store went online last month and supports handsets including 'Ophones,' or devices that run a China Mobile operating system but have a layout very similar to an iPhone."

Last week, Apple and China Unicom announced they struck a 3-year deal that will have the iPhone on sale in China in the fourth quarter of 2009. The device has been given government regulatory approval for use in the nation of over one billion for five years on China Unicom's network. The approved hardware is a GSM/WCDMA phone without Wi-Fi.