Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus just became available in China last month, and analysts from multiple firms are keeping close tabs on availability of all of the new models. Although it’s difficult to tell just how many iPhone 6 and 6 Plus handsets Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has sold in China so far, Stifel analysts examined the October results from China’s three biggest carriers for clues about the health of the overall smartphone market there.
China Mobile ramps up 4G LTE availability
In a report dated Nov. 20, 2014, analyst Aaron Rakers and his team note that as of the end of October, the total number of mobile subscribers in China was 1.282 billion. Of those subscribers, 43.6% or 558.8 million of them were 3G / 4G subscribers.
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China Mobile Ltd. (ADR) (NYSE:CHL) (HKG:0941) exited the month with a total of 801.4 million subscribers, an increase from 799.1 million in September and last year’s 759.3 million. China’s largest mobile carrier said it had 54.45 million 4G subscribers as of the end of last month. That shows that the trend of acceleration continues, as the company had 40.95 million 4G subscribers in September and 28.8 million in August.
Focusing on Apple iPhone 6, 6 Plus availability
Of course while these numbers are good for China Mobile and suggest good things for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) in China, they don’t give analysts any specifics in determining how many iPhone 6 and 6 Plus smartphones the carrier sold. However, there have been reports that there were over 20 million pre-orders or reservations for the new iPhone 6 models, suggesting that demand is indeed strong there.
But because of the scant information on iPhone 6 sales in China, the Stifel team said investors are probably looking at availability of the new iPhone models in China to get a feel for how strong demand is there. Currently Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) lists a delivery time of seven to ten business days for all iPhone 6 models on its website in China, meaning that the company has yet to catch supply up with demand there.
Supply of the iPhone 6 Plus is even more constrained, as Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) indicates a shipping time of three to four weeks. Apple management recently said that they were unsure if they would be able to achieve a balance in supply and demand in the current quarter because of current channel inventory levels, which remain below their targeted four to six weeks.