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Apple has ‘big plans’ to take significant bite of the Chinese market


Apple has “big plans” for the new year, the company’s chief executive said yesterday, fanning speculation about new products as the tech giant unveiled a major push to grow its business in the lucrative Chinese market.

Over the weekend, Apple confirmed a long-awaited deal with China Mobile, the wireless carrier, to take its line of phones to the state-backed network’s 760 million-plus customers.

Thus far, Apple has been unable to tap into China Mobile’s user base, and has lagged behind rivals. With the agreement, which will bring the new Apple 5C and 5S smartphones to China Mobile customers next month, Apple is hoping to catch up as the carrier rolls out what will be the world’s largest 4G network.

“We know there are many China Mobile customers and potential new customers who are anxiously awaiting the incredible combination of iPhone on China Mobile’s leading network,” China Mobile’s chairman, Xi Guohua, said. Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, added that China was “an extremely important market”.

Challenges remain, particularly with the high price-tag associated with Apple’s iPhones. In 2012, with rivals such as Samsung offering cheaper alternatives, Apple’s share of Chinese smartphone sales declined to 6.2 per cent in the third quarter, from 7.9 per cent a year earlier, according to analysts Canalys.

Beyond China, Apple has been under pressure from investors to come up with new products, as markets worry about the company’s ability to replicate the high rates of growth seen under the leadership of the late Steve Jobs. While Mr Cook has introduced updates to various products, the company has not expanded into new areas of consumer technology, which has weighed on its share price and allowed some investors to ratchet up their demands for a larger share of the company’s cash pile.

Rumours, meanwhile, continue to swirl about the possibility of an Apple-branded TV or a foray into the emerging market for wearable products. The speculation was revived yesterday after the leaking of an internal memo in which Mr Cook said the business had “a lot to look forward to in 2014, including some big plans that we think customers are going to love.

“I am extremely proud to stand alongside you as we put innovation to work,” he said.

His remarks soon kicked off chatter on technology blogs about the prospect of an ultra-high definition TV backed up Apple software to take on the likes of Samsung, which has been expanding in that market with its Smart TV range. A larger iPad to replace the MacBook Air is also seen as a possibility, as well as a wearable iWatch or a completely revamped iPhone with a curved screen.