ISI

China Mobile offers a first peek at its iPhone sales numbers

March 20, 2014: 9:28 AM ET

In February, the giant carrier added 1.34 million 4G users, most of them iPhone users.

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Estimates of incremental iPhone sales to China Mobile in 2014

FORTUNE -- The day after Apple (AAPL) announced that China Mobile (CHL) would begin selling iPhones to its 776 million customers in mid-January, nobody really knew how many extra sales that would mean. We asked some Apple analysts for their best guess and got answers that ranged from the ridiculous to the absurd. But the average estimate, 18 million units, seemed reasonable to us.

Two months after sales began, we still don't know how the iPhone is doing at China Mobile. But on Thursday, we got our first solid data point, thanks to the Wall Street Journal's Lorraine Luk.

"We added 1.34 million new 4G users in February," Chairman Xi Gouhua told her, "and most of them are iPhone users."

From that, Luk estimates that the world's largest carrier must have sold about 1 million iPhones in 28 days. If that's right, 2014 incremental sales are likely to come in a lot closer to Morgan Stanley's base case estimate of 12 million than to ISI's Street-high 39 million.

LINK: China Mobile Added About 1 Million New iPhone Users in February

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