Apple CEO Tim Cook was at China Mobile’s Beijing store on Friday, kicking off the beginning of an event that saw the state-owned mobile provider finally selling iPhones capable of running on its 4G networks.
Joining China Mobile chairman Xi Guohua, Cook met dozens of eager buyers, posed for photographs and passed out autographed iPhones to customers.
“China is a very, very important geography for Apple, not only for its size, but for many other reasons as well," Cook told reporters prior to the China Mobile launch, adding that he was “incredibly optimistic” about Apple’s future sales in the mainland.
Cook’s appearance at the event is the culmination of years of prolonged negotiations between Apple and China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile operator.
While Apple has been able to sell its iPhones in China with service provided from China Mobile’s smaller competitors, China Telecom and China Unicom, the iPhone remained incompatible with China Mobile’s 3G network, which was based on a technological standard only used in the mainland.
After a December announcement last year that China Mobile had been awarded a government licence for 4G services, a new deal with Apple soon followed.
As of January 17, Apple’s iPhone 5s and 5c devices are available for purchase and usage on 4G networks by all China Mobile subscribers.
"China Mobile already has a reach to many cities that Apple does not have a reach to," Cook said to reporters from The Wall Street Journal  on January 15 as he prepared for the iPhone’s China Mobile launch. “[Apple] saw a company in China Mobile that was unlike any other company we had ever dealt with, that had enormous skill and enormous size and enormous scale and enormous talent.”
According to data released by China Mobile, the company received over one million pre-orders for the iPhone in the weeks following news of the revised deal with Apple.
Apple is estimated to sell as many as 24 million iPhones throughout 2014 thanks to the China Mobile partnership, according to analysts cited by CNN .
As of November 2013, China Mobile boasted around 763 million subscribers. The company has predicted that its 3G and 4G smartphone sales will reach anywhere from 190 million to 220 million units in 2014.