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Apple, China Mobile strike deal to bring iPhone to China in January

Apple and China Mobile announced their long-awaited deal Sunday night, with the Chinese mobile carrier launching the iPhone across the country next month.

China Mobile bills itself as the world's largest mobile company, with 760 million subscribers. Access to its network has been seen as a crucial next step for Apple.

"Apple has enormous respect for China Mobile and we are excited to begin working together. China is an extremely important market for Apple and our partnership with China Mobile presents us the opportunity to bring iPhone to the customers of the world's largest network," Tim Cook, Apple CEO said according to a press release.

"iPhone customers in China are an enthusiastic and rapidly growing group, and we can't think of a better way to welcome in the Chinese New Year than getting an iPhone into the hands of every China Mobile customer who wants one," Cook added.

"Apple's iPhone is very much loved by millions of customers around the world. We know there are many China Mobile customers and potential new customers who are anxiously awaiting the incredible combination of iPhone on China Mobile's leading network," Xi Guohua, China Mobile Chairman said according to the same press release.

Both the carrier and Apple will sell the phone in their stores starting Jan. 17. Potential buyers can pre-register as of Dec. 25.

The companies did not offer pricing details.

Pricing for iPhones has been something of a sore spot in China in recent months, amid reports that gray-market prices made the phones cost orders of magnitude more than elsewhere.

Yet Apple's smartphone market share has been on the rise in China, with widespread signs it was close to formalizing a deal with China Mobile.

Dow Jones cited analyst reports suggesting Apple could sell as many as 39 million iPhones in the country next year. By way of comparison, the company sold nearly 34 million iPhones worldwide in the most recent quarter.

(Read more: Apple's market share on the rise)

The deal could also be a catalyst for Apple shares, which have risen in recent months every time a report suggested a China Mobile deal was near — only to fall each time when a deal did not materialize.

(What are Apple shares doing now? Click here)

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