Even before it launches on China Mobile this Friday, Apple’s(s aapl) iPhone looks to be a hit in a new market. According to China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua, millions of iPhones have been ordered prior to the phone’s availability. Xi made the comment at a media briefing on Wednesday, which included Apple CEO Tim Cook, according to the Wall Street Journal.
How big a deal is the new Apple relationship with China Mobile? The scale is staggering if you consider that Apple has been selling the iPhone already since 2007. You’d might expect few areas of large sales growth are still available at this point but China Mobile is the biggest of the big.
“As of this weekend we will be selling iPhones in more than 3,000 additional locations,” Cook said at the briefing. And if that figure doesn’t impress, perhaps this one will. China Mobile is the largest mobile operator in the world with more than 750 million subscribers. That’s roughly the size of seven Verizon Wireless(s vz) networks, based on subscriber count.
That certainly doesn’t imply that Apple will sell iPhones to all of these subscribers; the handset will likely appeal most to those with the disposable income to make the purchase. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple capture just 10 percent of China Mobile’s user base within two years, however, which would add around 75 million iPhone sales over that time. Considering Apple sold 33.8 million iPhones in the most recent quarter, even sales to just one percent of China Mobile customers is a sizable bump.