Despite the fact that it is not an Apple partner, and therefore not able to sell any of its devices, China Mobile now has an impressive 9.5 million subscribers using an iPhone on its network, according to China Daily.

The statistic stands head and shoulders above the one million iPhone users that use official partner China Unicom’s network.

China is one of Apple’s key growth markets and the fact that so many Chinese users go to the trouble of buying devices unlocked with the specific aim of using the China Mobile network demonstrates the appeal of both Apple, its iPhone products and the operator in the country.

It is the largest carrier in the world but China Mobile was a surprise absentee from the iPhone 4S carriers, which included a new recruit in the form of Japan’s KDDI. For now the firm’s 600 million plus customers must continue to buy unlocked devices if they want to use an iPhone on its network.

The run up to the unveiling of latest Apple device saw constant speculation that the device would be available through China Mobile, with a prototype device even spotted running on the telco  giant’s service.

New Apple CEO Tim Cook visited the company back in June and it seems unlikely that speculation about a future tie-in will go away given China Mobile’s colossal number of subscribers,which grew by 627,628 in August alone – and Apple’s continued progress in the country.

In response to China Mobile’s ‘stealing’ of potential Unicom iPhone users, the operator released an interesting gadget, recently showcased by Technode, to enable China Mobile customers to use its 3G, which is widely recognised as superior.