iPhone talks in China in ‘final stages,’ state media reports

September 2, 2008, 11:31 AM UTC

Things seem to be heating up again for the iPhone in China, according to several press accounts early Tuesday.

The most promising was an item in 21st Century Business Herald, a Chinese state-controlled financial paper, which described talks between Apple (AAPL) and China Mobile (CHL), the world’s largest cellphone carrier, as in their “final stages,” according to AFP.

Meanwhile, both Reuters and Network World carried remarks made by China Mobile CEO Wang Jianzhou on Tuesday that were only slightly less encouraging.

“Steve Jobs and I hope the iPhone will enter China as soon as possible,” Wang told reporters at the ITU Telecom Asia 2008 exhibition in Bangkok. “We are discussing this issue but we do not have an agreement.” (link)

Wang declined further comment, citing a non-disclosure agreement with Apple.

A deal with China Mobile would be the capstone of an aggressive expansion program that has brought the iPhone to 43 countries and 660.5 million potential customers in 2008.

China alone has more than 600 million cellphone subscribers, and 415 million of them get their service from China Mobile, according to interim results published last week (link).

Apple has been in talks with China Mobile for the better part of a year. The main sticking point — Steve Jobs’ insistence on revenue sharing — was taken off the table in June. It’s not clear what’s holding things up now.