Gold believed that Apple is in a weaker position now than it was a year or two ago. That's largely because of the share gains made by Android smartphones and handset makers that focus on Android -- especially Korea's Samsung, which sells Galaxy smartphones that support China Mobile's TD-SCDMA 3G network technology.
"Apple needs China Mobile simply because of all the competition it now faces from Android," said Gold. "As the smartphone market saturates, they need to expand the base to expand sales."
White, on the other hand, sees Apple in the driver's seat. "China Mobile has been losing ground in the 3G market versus China Telecom and China Unicom, largely due to the lack of the iPhone," White said in a Thursday research note.
China Mobile may be the biggest carrier in the People's Republic of China (PRC), but it doesn't have a majority of the country's 3G subscribers, who would be most interested in purchasing an iPhone. White estimated that China Mobile customers account for 37% of the PRC's 3G users, down from 41% in the last year.
In the third quarter of 2012, Apple ranked sixth among smartphone makers, with a unit shipment share of 8% -- a one-point decline from the prior quarter.
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