iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C pre-orders on China Mobile not that high, late launch may affect demand

31 December 2013, 6:26 am EST By Alexandra Burlacu Mobile & Apps

China Mobile has started taking pre-orders for the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C last week, but the demand is reportedly not as strong as expected.

Apple's latest iPhones won't launch on China Mobile until Jan. 17, but the carrier has already started taking pre-orders. The flagship iPhone 5S and the colorful, lower-cost iPhone 5C were expected to see huge demand considering China Mobile's whopping user base.

A new report from Wedge Partners, however, now reveals that the world's largest carrier saw pre-orders of 100,000 units of both iPhones. While this number may seem pretty high, it may in fact be quite low considering that China Mobile has around 760 million subscribers.

A deal between Apple and China Mobile has been highly-anticipated for years. Now that it finally materialized, iPhone demand in the country was expected to be off the charts, but it turns out that is not the case. By comparison, China Unicom saw 120,000 pre-orders, while China Telecom saw 150,000 pre-orders for Apple's latest iPhones back in September.

The fact that China Mobile has a dramatically larger subscriber base, yet saw fewer pre-orders for the iPhones suggests that the late launch may have affected demand.

"What's important to remember is these phones launched in September," Wedge analyst Brian Blair told AllThingsD. "Now here we are several months later and there's no subsidy being offered that's so special that the preorders are off the charts. If this had been in September when the phone launched globally, I think the numbers would be a lot higher."

While it's still a bit early to estimate the figures at this point, the reported number of iPhone pre-orders on China Mobile does sound somewhat disappointing. On the other hand, the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C are yet to make their official debut on the world's largest carrier. Although pre-orders don't seem that impressive, the smartphones may see higher demand once they officially launch on China Mobile on Jan. 17.

According to AllThingsD, current estimates for 2014 iPhone sales on China Mobile range from 17 million at the low end to 38.7 million at the high end. It remains to be seen, however, whether these estimates will prove to be accurate.

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