Apple rushing to meet insatiable demand for iPhone 5 on mainland

iPhone 5 is expected to be released in the insatiable China market within three months

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 September, 2012, 10:12am

Apple and its principal manufacturing contractor, Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry, are rushing to meet pent-up demand for the iPhone 5 in the world's largest mobile-telephone market on the mainland.

"Apple is trying its best to make as many devices possible as fast as it can," said a source familiar with the production and distribution demands for Apple's latest weapon.

Apple announced last week that the iPhone 5 would be available in Hong Kong and eight other markets this Friday.

The source said Apple was well aware that Hong Kong was likely to become the first stop for mainland consumers who wanted to buy the iPhone 5. The company did not announce a release schedule for the mainland.

Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice-president of worldwide marketing, said last week that the iPhone 5 would be made available in 100 markets and supported by 240 mobile network operators by the end of this year. "This will be Apple's fastest iPhone roll-out ever," Schiller said.

But Hong Kong, where Apple operates a branded store at the IFC Mall in Central, may not be mainland shoppers' sole source of the iPhone 5 in Asia for too long.

According to a report from the "IT news" site of China Unicom (Hong Kong) senior vice-president Li Gang confirmed last Friday that the iPhone 5 "will be formally introduced in China [within] three months".

Li said Unicom, the mainland's second-biggest mobile network operator and Apple's domestic carrier-partner for the iPhone since 2009, had already reached an agreement with the United States-based technology giant.

Market research firm IHS iSuppli has forecast the mainland's total smartphone sales will rise 141 per cent to 160 million units this year, and by 2016, shipments will grow to 333 million.

The iPhone 5, which comes with a new mobile operating system called iOS6, is Apple's first smartphone to support 4G mobile networks based on the technology called long-term evolution (LTE).

High-speed 4G LTE networks can provide theoretical online download speeds of up to 100 megabits per second. The fastest 3G mobile networks run at 42Mbps. The iPhone 5 can be used on existing compatible 2G and 3G networks.

For Europe and Asia, 4G LTE network deployments on the 1800MHz band will be able to unleash the iPhone 5's 4G capabilities.

Hong Kong has five 4G mobile network operators, but SmarTone Telecommunications was the only one from the city named by Apple in its initial batch of 4G network carrier-partners.

IHS iSuppli forecast the iPhone 5 would boost iPhone shipments worldwide by 60 per cent to 149 million units this year from 93 million last year.