BEIJING, Dec. 19 -- Long-running negotiations over a possible alliance between Apple Inc and China Mobile Ltd, the nation's biggest telecom carrier, are testing consumers' patience.
The carrier poured cold water on would-be iPhone shoppers on Wednesday, saying that it's still in talks with Apple.
"China Mobile has yet to reach an agreement with Apple, but good news deserves to be waited for, and we expect to release cooperation information soon," Xi Guohua, chairman of China Mobile, said at the China Mobile Global Partner Conference 2013 in Guangzhou.
Xi's words quashed speculation that China Mobile, with a user base of almost 760 million, would announce a formal partnership with Apple on Wednesday.
China Mobile's Beijing branch began taking online orders for unidentified fourth-generation "star models" of smartphone models last week.
Although the company did not specify a particular device, online speculation suggested that it was the iPhone 5S handset, with commenters posting a golden apple.
About 68,000 people had made online bookings as of Wednesday, but none of them could say when they'll get a real iPhone 5S smartphone.
A China Mobile official who requested anonymity said the "big picture" of cooperation between China Mobile and Apple has been settled, but some details require further negotiation.
Bryan Wang, principal analyst with Forrester Market Advisory (Beijing) Co Ltd, said in an e-mail to China Daily that Apple had already sold more than 16.8 million iPhone handsets in China in the 12-month period ended on Sept 30. He said that if China Mobile agrees to a partnership with Apple, iPhone sales will soar in China.
"Apple Inc could sell as many as 17 million new iPhones to China Mobile users in the first year" after an agreement, Wang said.
Gene Munster, analyst with investment bank Piper Jaffray Co, said that 17 million unit sales would represent about 2 percent of China Mobile's total subscriber base (which stood at 759 million in October) or 10 percent of the 3G user base (176 million).
Apple did not respond to China Daily's request for comment on Wednesday.
In contrast to Apple, many domestic mobile phone manufacturers are moving to catch the 4G smartphone wave.
Yulong Computer Telecommunication Technology Co said it aims to become the top brand in China's 4G smartphone market. It will launch 30-plus 4G mobile phone models next year.
On Wednesday, Yulong unveiled two 4G smartphones. It said the handsets will hit the market next month, at around 1,000 yuan ($165) per unit.