Apple's Tim Cook says China will overtake the US as its biggest market
Bloomberg in Beijing
Apple chief executive Tim Cook said China would overtake the United States to become its largest market, as the iPhone-maker adds more stores and considers debuting new products in the country.
"I believe it will become our first," Cook said in an interview with Xinhua on Thursday. No timeframe was given for the prediction.
Apple had sales of US$5.7 billion in China during the quarter to September last year. US revenue was about US$14.4 billion, based on figures in an earnings statement in October.
Cook also met the chairman of China Mobile while in the country, as he seeks to boost co-operation with a mobile operator that has 707 million customers and no agreement to sell iPhones.
Cook is making his second visit to the country in less than a year as Apple tries to reverse its shrinking share of the domestic smartphone market.
Apple intends to open "many more" outlets in China over the next several years, Cook told Xinhua. The company now has 11 stores in mainland China and Hong Kong.
Cook also said he would also "love" to introduce new products in China first, according to the report. The iPhone 5 was released in mainland China last month, almost three months after its US introduction.
The company's growth in the world's most populous nation has been limited by it only working with smaller carriers and competition from domestic phone-makers. Its share of the nation's smartphone market slipped to sixth from fourth in the third quarter, according to researcher IDC.
At a meeting with Xi Guohua, the chairman of China Mobile, the two discussed "co-operation", according to China Mobile, the world's largest wireless operator by subscribers. It did not elaborate.
China Mobile, which accounts for 64 per cent of the nation's mobile users, said last month it needed to reach agreements on benefit-sharing with Apple before it could begin offering iPhones.
The operator also has a home-grown third-generation network that is not used by other carriers.