Apple Will Launch iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 With LTE Support In China This Week

The cellular models of the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 will launch in China this week, Apple announced today. Both models support TD-LTE and FDD-LTE, which have been rolling out in China since the end of last year, and are already listed on the company’s China site.

The launch of both iPad models in Apple’s most important market outside the U.S. comes as tablet sales in general decline. Last month, research firm IDC reported that full-year iPad shipments will decline for the first time ever, due in part to the popularity of cheaper Android models, but also because tablets have a longer lifecycle than smartphones, which means users are willing to hold on to them for more than three years.

On the other hand, the IDC report also noted that emerging markets have overtaken their more mature counterparts this year for tablet shipments, and now account for 50.6 percent of the market, which means that countries like China are becoming increasingly important for tablet manufacturers. For example, Nokia decided to sell the N1, the first tablet it made after its split from Microsoft, in China first.

It remains to be seen if the promise of speedier connections through cellular networks will be enough to convince Chinese consumers to buy the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 instead of cheaper Android models (or previous iterations of the iPad)

According to Xinhua, TD-LTE user numbers are supposed to hit 70 million by the end of this year. China Mobile, the country’s largest telecom operator, has already received a FDD-LTE network approval from the government, while its two rivals, China Telecom and China Unicom, are expected to get their licenses this month.