Weekly Mobile Notes: iPhone 5′s Hot Demand, Apple’s and Nokia’s China Play

by Trefis Team
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The past week had quite a bit happening in the mobile sector. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) announced that the iPhone 5 saw more than 2 million pre-orders placed withing the first 24 hours of availability, obliterating the previous iPhone 4S record. With Apple planning to making this iPhone rollout the fastest ever, China Unicom (NYSE:CHU) hopes to get the iPhone 5 before the year end. Nokia (NYSE:NOK), meanwhile, continues to work behind the scenes to build carrier support with the latest to join the Lumia club being the world’s largest wireless carrier by subscriber base, China Mobile (NYSE:CHL). 

iPhone 5 sees record demand

If the pre-order demand for iPhone 5 is anything to go by, Apple could well be on its way to recording one of the biggest upgrade cycles in the history of electronic devices. Going by the past iPhone launches, most would have expected Apple to run out of pre-order order stock on the opening day itself. However, the rate at which the same has happened this time gives us the first sign of what could be another record-setting holiday quarter for Apple.

Apple started taking pre-orders for the iPhone 5 at 3:01 a.m. ET on September 14, with shipping expectations set for a week. That didn’t last long, however, as Apple was forced to push its shipping dates by a week merely an hour after launch, with overwhelming demand causing Apple to run out of launch day pre-order stock. In comparison, Apple had taken at least 20 hours to run out of opening day stock for iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S during the previous two launches. Later, Apple announced that more than 2 million pre-orders had been placed for the iPhone 5 on the opening day, more than double as many for the 4S last year.  This incredibly fast sell-out gives us an indication of the huge pent-up demand that had built up in the previous months as people postponed buying an iPhone in anticipation of the new launch. (see iPhone 5 Hits Record Pre-Order Demand; Could Push Apple Past $850)

Nokia gets China Mobile’s support

Nokia’s Lumia line could have a much bigger presence in China soon. While all the talk in the past week has been about Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and the big iPhone 5 launch, Nokia seems to have pulled off a major coup by getting China Mobile on board to sell the Lumia 920. The news was revealed by a Nokia representative this week. While pricing, availability and other details remained absent, we feel the roll out will happen after the Lumia launch in the U.S. considering the big marketing push that Microsoft is going to put behind the whole Windows story. With the world’s largest subscriber base of close to 700 million and a 3G penetration of only about 10%, China Mobile presents a huge opportunity for a popular emerging market brand such as Nokia.

This comes on the back of another news that Nokia and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) have also enlisted the services of Verizon to support Windows Phone 8 in the U.S. With AT&T (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile already offering the Lumia 900 and Lumia 710, respectively, Nokia seems to be moving to aggressively market the Lumia now that it finally has a strong smartphone OS in Windows Phone 8.

However, Nokia faces an uphill task against the two well-entrenched ecosystems of Apple and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) to create a niche for itself and Microsoft. Nonetheless, more carrier partnerships and better app support to drive Lumia sales will be key to its resurgent hopes. (see Armed With Windows Phone 8, Nokia Catches Big Fish China Mobile)

China to get iPhone 5 soon

In line with Apple’s plans to make this year’s iPhone launch its fastest roll-out ever, China Unicom expects to launch the iPhone 5 within three months of the September 21st launch. While regulatory approval remains the only bottleneck, it should not be a significant worry since China Unicom has mostly been able to schedule its iPhone launches within the three month time frame. The next step for Apple in China would obviously be China Telecom (NYSE:CHA), and in keeping with the Apple tradition of giving each carrier a year’s time with each iteration of the iPhone, we can expect the carrier to launch the iPhone in the Feb-March period. (see China Is Likely To Get iPhone 5 Before The Year End)

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