Passbook

Apple's special event: The cards that were not played

September 10, 2013: 5:37 PM ET

Two cards in particular: A deal with China Mobile and Passbook shopping with Touch ID.

400199641332FORTUNE -- "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), to carry the new devices.

Although Apple swears there's nothing to it, both Howe and Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster, who had been separately briefed by Apple executives, seemed convinced that the deal has indeed been cut, and that it would be announced when Apple holds its previously scheduled iPhone press event in Beijing on Wednesday at 10 a.m. local time.

For the record, the company's line is that the Beijing event -- like the one Tokyo -- is a straightforward rebroadcast of the show Apple put on in Cupertino, with nothing added.

We'll find out soon enough if who is right. If I'm reading my world clock correctly, 10 a.m. Wednesday in Beijing is 10 p.m. Tuesday in New York.

We may learn then what kind of subsidy -- if any -- the Chinese carriers plan to offer with the new iPhones. "It's the iPhone C for 'China,' not 'cheap,' says the Yankee Group's Howe. And indeed the $549 unsubsidized price is considerably higher than what most analysts (and 9 out 10 of Apple 2.0 readers) expected.

"These are clearly premium products selling at premium prices -- unapologetically so -- even in developing markets," say Howe.

Munster, who had based his profit margin calculations on the assumption that the unsubsidized price would be $300, not $549, will be revising his spreadsheets overnight.

"The fact is, Apple doesn't know what demand for the iPhone 5C will be in developing markets," he says. Rather than give away more margin than necessary, he speculates, the company decided to start high and make adjustments later.

It's always easier to lower a price you've set too high than to raise one you've set it too low.

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Passbook.

Touch ID

Touch ID

The other big hole in Apple's press event had to do with the fingerprint scanning technology -- which Apple calls Touch ID -- that comes standard in the iPhone 5S.

Many observers expected fingerprint scanning to be used not just as a secure way to turn the iPhone, but also as an easy, secure way to shop without cash or a credit card.

So there was some disappointment Tuesday when the only kind of shopping mentioned at the event was buying stuff from Apple's iTunes store.

But Munster, who got a better briefing than the rest of us, came away convinced that Touch ID enabled shopping will be coming to the iPhone's Passbook app (i.e., with Target, Ticketmaster, Starbucks, Walgreens, etc.) within a year -- perhaps with the release of iOS 8.

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