Apple has confirmed the iPhone will be launched in China after a deal was struck between the company and the world's largest mobile phone operator.
The firm announced that China is an "extremely important" market for the company, with China Mobile boasting more than 760 million subscribers.
Having also become one of the first Chinese companies to be awarded 4G licences earlier this month, the deal with Apple signifies the latest step in the Asian nation's rise to economic power.
Tim Cook, chief executive of Apple, said: "Our partnership with China Mobile presents us the opportunity to bring iPhone to the customers of the world's largest network."
Mr Cook had previously noted that he is expecting China to replace North America as the firm's largest market in the near future. China has a rapidly growing middle class and this means products such as the iPhone – one of Apple's major success stories – will become increasingly popular in the next few years.
Growth of China
China Unicom and China Telecom already offer the iPhone on their range of available mobile phones, with China Mobile now able to challenge its two main rivals in the country.
"This is one of the biggest partnership announcements Apple has made in the past several years," Manoj Menon, managing director of consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, told the BBC.
He added: "It gives them access to more than ten per cent of the global mobile phone users. It is an incredible growth opportunity for Apple."
The dominance of the smartphone market by Apple – mainly through its flagship iPhone device – has come under increasing pressure in the last few years from companies such as Samsung. Google has also proven to be a major player in the market through its Android operating system, which runs on devices such as the Nexus 6 and Samsung S4.
Following the news of the deal with China Mobile, stocks in Apple rose in after-hours trading by 0.16 per cent and were trading for 549.02, not far short of the firm's 52-week high of 575.14.
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