China Mobile starts selling Apple’s iPhones today, but subsidies don’t seem that attractive

China Mobile starts selling Apple’s iPhones today, but subsidies don’t seem that attractive ...

After Apple struck a long-awaited deal with China Mobile in December last year, the iPhone is finally on sale both in China Mobile stores and Apple’s own Chinese stores today.

Apple CEO Tim Cook showed up at China Mobile’s launch today, where customers got autographed iPhones.

What’s most important is that the prices are out — and it’s time to judge whether the world’s largest carrier with more than 740 million subscribers can compete with the two other major Chinese carriers when it comes to iPhone subsidies. After all, China Unicom and China Telecom already had a headstart on the availability of the iPhone 5s and 5c when they started offering them in September.

According to Chinese media outlet Phoenix Tech, China Mobile is offering the 16GB version of the iPhone 5s for free when users select a monthly plan that costs CNY588 ($97) per month and commit to a 24-month contract. The device will cost CNY3,788 ($625) when users sign on to a 24-month plan for CNY188 ($31) per month. It will cost CNY5,288 ($873) without a contract.

By comparison, the iPhone 5s will cost CNY5,499 ($898) on China Unicom without a contract — and when users choose a monthly plan that costs CNY386 per month ($63) and commit to a 30-month contract, they’ll get it for free.

On China Telecom, the iPhone 5s is free for those who subscribe to a two-year contract at a monthly cost of CNY389 ($64).

At first glance, it seems like China Mobile’s subsidies aren’t all that attractive when compared to the other two carriers — and this could be a disadvantage.

However, Bloomberg reported earlier this week that China Mobile had already hit 1 million pre-orders — and a plausible explanation for this is that the carrier could still edge out its competitors by mere data speeds. After all, the iPhones come with 4G capability on China Mobile.

Chinese authorities issued 4G licenses to the three major telecommunication operators in the country last year, after Apple gained regulatory approval for its iPhones to run on the TD-LTE standard used by China Mobile for its 4G networks.

It seems like even as China Mobile does not intend to compete in terms of iPhone subsidies, it is planning on competing aggressively in terms of data speeds — check out this ‘highly informal and completely unscientific’ download speed test recently conducted by the Wall Street Journal.

Related: Apple strikes China Mobile deal, but will reality match the hype?

Headline image via Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Read next: YouTube will let you watch some Super Bowl 2014 commercials before they air

Pssst, hey you!

Do you want to get the sassiest daily tech newsletter every day, in your inbox, for FREE? Of course you do: sign up for Big Spam here.