Despite complaints about a weirdly large screen and cumbersome docking port, the iPhone 5 has been a huge hit. Reviewers are expecting record sales for the new upgrade. The low end estimate projects 6 million unit sales, and it might even hit 10 million. Just to put this into perspective, this isn't a surprise for Apple. The iPhone 4S sold four million gadgets in the first three days after its release, and total iPhone unit sales hit 72 million in FY 2011.
A smash hit in America ever since its debut in 2007, the real news behind Apple's future development may be the coveted Chinese market. China Mobile is the largest cell provider in China, which also makes it the largest in the world. Apple's growth in the United States has been a strong diagonal thus far and has a lot of potential growth left in it, but eventually that must plateau. With the Chinese market opening up, Apple can continue to fuel its growth with an enthusiastic and growing demographic hungry for status symbols like the iPhone.
So, how much will this really help the tech giant?
Apple already has deals with two other Chinese mobile networks, China Telecom and China Unicorn, but these two are dwarfed by China Mobile. Apple has been campaigning hard to gain all three networks in the relatively new Chinese market that has almost a billion users. Rumors have been circulating since Spring that the iPhone 5 would support TD-LTE technology, which it needs to function on China Mobile's 4G network.
Others report that the phone does not support the network at all, and that Apple will have to remain content with the second and third best networks in the country. Analysts cite supply-chain problems with the chips needed to support the network as reason for the delay in closing a deal with China Mobile. The company may not have long, however; Nokia recently captured China Mobile and is working to expand the only 18% of 3G penetration in that country.
Apple can monopolize on its branding for a long time yet, especially in an increasingly acquisitive and upwardly-mobile society like China. Besides the obvious profits to be made, Apple is finding itself defending its labyrinthine system of patents in America. Going overseas, where the iPhone is a well-recognized big dog, holds appeal.
Apple has to act fast, though — the gold mine that is the Chinese smartphone market isn't going to be left alone for long.