Apple CEO Tim Cook says a deal to sell iPhones on China Mobile’s expansive network is a ‘watershed’ moment. On Friday, China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile phone company, will start selling Apple’s phones after years of negotiation between the two firms. The deal, announced last month, will give the American tech giant access to about 760 million potential subscribers.
The agreement, which analysts widely see as crucial to Apple’s near-term growth, was touted Wednesday in a rare joint appearance between Cook and China Mobile’s Xi Guo-hua. (You can watch the video here.) Here’s what Cook told CNBC:
“This is a watershed day…It’s a huge announcement. We’re incredibly impressed with them, we have deep respect for them. We see this as bringing the world’s best smartphone to the very largest and now the fastest network in China.”
American investors have debated how much the China Mobile deal will actually help Apple take back marketshare won recently by Korean and Chinese manufacturers with better distribution in China. Fortune points out that, in a survey of analysts late last year, estimates for how many iPhone China Mobile would sell this year ranged wildly from 5 million to upwards of 39 million. Cook told the Wall Street Journal, “As of this weekend we will be selling iPhones in more than 3,000 additional locations. China Mobile already has a reach to many cities that Apple does not have a reach to.”