While everyone headed to Las Vegas for CES last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook took a trip to China instead to meet with the chairman of China Mobile Ltd, Xi Guohua. China Mobile is the world’s largest wireless carrier, with over 700 million subscribers. It’s also the only major Chinese carrier not to have a partnership with Apple and securing a deal would help expand Apple’s reach in China.
“China is currently our second largest market. I believe it will become our first. I believe strongly that it will,” Cook was quoted as saying in an interview. Apple has seen sales in China more than double in both 2010 and 2011, though growth was slower in 2012. Current revenue in China is around a third of Apple’s sales in the U.S.
Cook wasn’t the only Apple executive making news in China. Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing for Apple, gave a separate interview with the Shanghai Evening News in which he addressed recent rumors concerning the release of a low-cost model of the iPhone. Despite Internet buzz about a $99 iPhone or “iPhone mini,” Schiller confirmed that the company had no plans for such a device. “Despite the popularity of cheap smartphones [in China], this will never be the future of Apple’s products,” he said.