FORTUNE -- Remember Groundhog Day, the 1993 comedy starring Bill Murray as a self-centered TV weatherman who gets stuck in a time loop and must repeat the same hated assignment again and again until he finally gets it right -- and wins Andie MacDowell's heart?
Investors who have been watching Apple's (AAPL) courtship of the world's largest mobile phone carrier for more than six years -- I posted my first Apple-China Mobile (CHL) story in November 2007 -- must feel a little like Bill without his Andie or his Punxsutawney Phil.
The latest twist comes via Lorraine Luk in Monday's Wall Street Journal. Having denied reports last week in both the Journal and Fortune.com that the two companies had finally signed a distribution deal, the carrier changed its tune.
"A phone call to a China Mobile customer representative," the Journal reported Monday, "confirmed that customers can preorder iPhones from the site starting Thursday."
Here's the Punxsutawney twist: According to Monday's Journal, a China Mobile's pre-order website was advertising Apple's smartphones alongside devices made by Samsung, Lenovo and HTC. The website is still promoting Samsung and the rest, but has since dropped any mention of Apple or its iPhones.
At this point, I suspect the deal won't be real until Apple says it's so.
Cites a single unnamed source "familiar with the situation."
FORTUNE -- Is this the news Apple (AAPL) investors have been waiting so many years to hear?
WSJ: Apple, China Mobile Sign Deal to Offer iPhone
Without an official announcement or independent verification it's hard to say. The fact that it comes from the Wall Street Journal speaks well for the report. The fact that it hangs on a single, unnamed source... not so MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 4, 2013 9:45 PM ET
A subsidiary's reservation website briefly went live Monday night, came back Wednesday.
FORTUNE -- The attached screen grab comes from a website registered by a subsidiary of China Mobile Limited (CHL) in Suzhou, a city of 5 million just west of Shanghai.
The site went live late Monday local time, and began reserving appointments for customers interested in buying the iPhone 5S or iPhone 5C.
UPDATE: A China Mobile spokesman told CNN's Beijing MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 2, 2013 11:26 PM ET
The world's largest carrier is recruiting "pioneers" for a 4G pilot project that starts Dec. 18.
FORTUNE -- If you're looking to signs that China Mobile (CHL) is getting set to start offering its 740 million subscribers iPhones -- and what Apple (AAPL) investor isn't? -- the carrier's website has been offering some strong hints. Take, for example, the attached promo that shows China Mobile customers communicating with a variety of MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Nov 22, 2013 8:34 AM ET
One step closer to an iPhone deal with the world's largest mobile carrier.
FORTUNE -- The key word in the job posting above -- spotted Wednesday by Bloomberg's Edmond Lococo on Apple's (AAPL) Chinese website -- is the unpronounceable bit of jargon highlighted in blue.
TD-SCDMA, for Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access, is the communications protocol used by China Mobile (CHL) -- and only China Mobile -- to send signals to and from MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Oct 9, 2013 4:25 PM ET
Two cards in particular: A deal with China Mobile and Passbook shopping with Touch ID.
FORTUNE -- "Not a 'no,' but rather a 'not yet.'"
That's how the Yankee Group's Carl Howe described the fact that there was no mention Tuesday of what would have been the biggest deal in Apple's (AAPL) big iPhone press event: An agreement with China Mobile (CHL), the world's largest mobile phone carrier (and Apple's biggest holdout), MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Sep 10, 2013 5:37 PM ET
Samsung may be winning in device volume, but Apple's App Store attracts paying customers and makes developers' lives a little easier.
By John Gaudiosi
FORTUNE -- The tech world's attention will turn to Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. Tuesday, where the company is rumored to debut the enhanced high-end iPhone 5S and the lower-cost iPhone 5C. Other devices, potentially the long-rumored iWatch, could also be showcased. While new Apple products at MORESep 9, 2013 12:27 PM ET
It would be the biggest iPhone deal ever, seven times larger than the one with Verizon.
FORTUNE -- Apple (AAPL) is preparing to ship its as-yet-unannounced mid-range iPhone to China Mobile (CHL), the Wall Street Journal reported Friday, citing unnamed sources "familiar with the matter."
If the two companies have indeed signed a contract -- something the Journal's sources could not confirm -- it would be the biggest carrier agreement Apple has MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Sep 6, 2013 6:47 PM ET
The markets react to rumors that Apple is about to add the biggest carrier to its network.
FORTUNE -- The sharp vertical line in the chart at right is the market's reaction to the news late Tuesday that Apple (AAPL) has scheduled a media event in Beijing to be held a few hours after the Sept. 10 special event at Apple headquarters.
That was enough to persuade some traders -- or at MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Sep 5, 2013 8:30 AM ET
AlphaWise survey finds Chinese willing to pay up to RMB 4,000 ($486) for the Apple brand.
FORTUNE -- Morgan Stanley's Katy Huberty has some good news for Apple (AAPL) and bad news for everybody else trying to sell smartphones in China.
On Monday, the same day the Wall Street Journal put its imprimatur on rumors that have been floating around for weeks -- namely, that Apple is set to launch a pair MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Aug 20, 2013 4:37 AM ET
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