Apple's iPhone 5S is priced at 5,288 yuan ($875 at Wednesday's exchange rate), while the less-expensive iPhone 5C costs 4,488 yuan ($742), making them among the highest-priced smartphones in China.
China Mobile's Xi declined to get specific about what subsidies the carrier will offer customers, but acknowledged that his firm's pricing will be higher than rivals' like China Unicom and China Telecom, which have sold the iPhone 5S and 5C since their introduction last September.
"The prices are acceptable to the richest, the elite in China, but the country is a good example of, where there's a rising middle class, as the country overall gets wealthier, that benefits Apple," said Restivo.
Apple remains an "aspirational" brand there as well as throughout the world, Restivo said, and although its wares, particularly the iPhone, may be out of reach of billions, those goods will continue to be desirable by people who one day hope they can afford them.
That gibes with the record influxes of used iPhones and iPads reported by buyback vendors such as Gazelle and NextWorth, which snap up Americans' unwanted devices and then resell them, always at a profit, in developing markets.
But with China Mobile now in the fold, the Cupertino, Calif. company will need to grow sales in different ways than signing up new distributors, Restivo said.
In China, that means offering iPhones in more than one screen size and resolution, Restivo contended, referring to the larger-screen smartphones popular in Asia often labeled with the clumsy mash-up of "phablets"
"It would help," Restivo said, when asked whether Apple needs an iPhone with a larger display than the current 4-in. found on the iPhone 5S and 5C. "The Chinese have a propensity to buy larger devices, and Apple needs to tweak its one-model business model and offer a greater variety."
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