Chinese New Years

iPhone 4s is coming to China with 10 shopping days to spare

January 4, 2012: 10:46 AM ET

Apple's new phone will arrive on the mainland -- and 21 other countries -- Friday, Jan. 13

The Year of the Dragon

New Year's Day -- the biggest shopping event of the Chinese calendar -- falls on Jan. 23 this year. And in a piece of extraordinarily fortuitous timing, Apple (AAPL) announced Wednesday that it will launch the iPhone 4S on mainland China (and 21 other countries) next Friday, Jan. 13.

That gives China's rapidly growing middle class 10 days to try to get their hands on what seems to be this season's must-have gadget. In Hong Kong, pre-orders for the iPhone 4S sold out in 10 minutes last November, and the launch the next week was overrun by line-sitters and smugglers buying iPhones by the bag-load to feed demand in the world's largest market for mobile phones.

As of now, China Unicom (CHU), the country's second-largest carrier (20% market share) is the only one authorized to sell the iPhone. No word yet from Apple when the device will be available for giant China Mobile (CHL) (70% share) or China Telecom (CHA) (10%).

The other 21 countries that will get the iPhone 4S next Friday are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Botswana, British Virgin Islands, Cameroon, Cayman Islands, Central African Republic, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Grenada, Guam, Guinea Conakry, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Niger, Senegal, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos and Uganda.

But China is the country that matters most to Apple. Greater China -- which the company defines as Hong Kong, mainland China and Taiwan -- is its fastest-growing market, with sales up 270% since 2010. Last quarter, Greater China generated 16% of Apple's total $28.27 billion revenue, nearly one out of every six dollars.

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