Apple Sold More iPhones In China Than Ever Before Last Quarter, Tim Cook Q&A Reveals

Apple CEO Tim Cook was in Beijing today speaking to Chinese press about the launch of the iPhone with carrier partner China Mobile. The WSJ was also in attendance, and reported on a Q&A session in which Cook explained Apple’s view of the Chinese smartphone market, China Mobile itself, and the long road to this partnership.

Cook revealed that during the past quarter, Apple sold more iPhones in the Greater China market than it has at any time previously, which means it moved over 10.4 million iPhones in that region alone, something which was in part made possible because Apple selected China as a launch market for its iPhone 5s and 5c this year, which is a first for any of its iPhone roll-outs. iPhone availability early and now with China Mobile should help curtail Apple’s grey market problem in the region, too, Cook says, thanks to increased availability.

“[A]s of this weekend we will be selling iPhones in more than 3,000 additional locations from what we were selling it before,” the WSJ quotes him as saying. The China Mobile deal opens up the iPhone to retail channels in cities where it had absolutely no presence before, he noted, and cited the carrier’s distribution network as an “enormous” asset.

Cook also fended off concerns about the increasing number of cheap devices competing with the iPhone in China, saying that Apple’s “North Star” has always been building the “best products in the world” and arguing that stats showing 57 percent of mobile browsing in China happens on iOS hardware should be enough to convince people of the effectiveness of that strategy.

Finally, Cook shed some light on how the China Mobile deal came together, noting that meetings were ongoing between 2008 and now, and that the key meetings that led to this launch happened in fall of 2012 and in January of 2013. Cook’s carefully chosen language indicates that there was a lot of back-and-forth involved in making the deal come together:

Great relationships are not built on always agreeing, they’re built on mutual respect, and they’re built on trying to see the issue from the other lens and I think the time that we spent in allowing that to occur will be great for both companies, and more importantly for the customers that we both serve

China Mobile has an immense amount of consumer buying power backing it, so it’s possible even the immense amount of clout Apple brings to bear wasn’t enough to get them to just agree to the iPhone maker’s standard carrier terms. Apple also seems to have wanted to wait until China Mobile’s TD-LTE network was in place.

Whatever the drama that went down getting to this point, Apple and China Mobile both stand to benefit immensely from this partnership, and it should help Apple in particular avoid any kind of growth plateau with the iPhone for another little while at least.