Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, in his first trip to China since taking the reins from late company co-founder Steve Jobs, met with Chinese government officials on Monday to discuss plans to further expand operations in the country.
China's growing tech-savvy middle class has contributed to a sharp rise in mobile device sales over the past year, and new data reveals that the country has overtaken the U.S. to become the world's largest market for iOS and Android device activations for the first time.
Despite not being an official Apple partner carrier, China Mobile announced on Monday that a spike of 5 million activations since October has brought the total number of iPhone users on its network to over 15 million following the launch of the iPhone 4S and a fix that allows the device to operate on the carrier's 3G network.
China's third-largest wireless carrier confirmed on Monday the imminent launch of the iPhone 4S on its network and suggested that it could begin selling the device as early as the end of February or the beginning of March.
Investment bank Morgan Stanley believes Apple will partner up with both China Telecom and China Mobile "over the next year" to make its iPhone available on all three Chinese carriers, a move that could bring incremental sales of as many as 40 million units next calendar year.
One of the final obstacles to the arrival of Apple's iPhone on the China Telecom network has been removed with the news that a Chinese regulatory agency has granted a network access license for the handset.
Chinese regulators have issued the final permit required for Apple to launch the iPhone 4S in the country, with wireless operator China Unicom hoping to begin selling the device by the Christmas and New Year holidays.