Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook has repeatedly identified China as a crucial market that will play a key role in his company's future growth. But competitors such as Samsung and Lenovo have had more success in China recently.
For that reason, it's been speculated that the Chinese market is one of the key reasons Apple is planning to release a new, more affordable iPhone model with a plastic back. And this week, Apple sent out invitations to members of the press for a media event on Sept. 11, a day after Apple is set to debut its new iPhones in the U.S.
While that event is expected to simply be a rebroadcast of the company's keynote presentation, the fact that Apple is holding a media event in China for the first time has fueled speculation that the company may be planning something big for that market.
Two theories shared by The Wall Street Journal include a day-and-date launch of new iPhone models matching their debut in the U.S. and other large markets, as well as the possibility of an agreement with mega-carrier China Mobile. The latter has been an obstacle for Apple for some time, as China Mobile is the world's largest carrier with more than 700 million active subscribers.
Cook himself is said to have traveled to visit with the head of China Mobile on a number of occasions in an effort to forge a deal. But sticking points have remained, including the fact that the carrier would like to receive a cut of software sold on the iOS App Store.
Some have suggested that Apple may even be willing to make concessions in order to make the iPhone available on China Mobile. In particular, China Mobile is interested in keeping the devices it offers affordable, as it serves hundreds of millions of poor rural subscribers, according to Bloomberg.
As for the launch date, Apple is expected to make its new iPhones available on Friday, Sept. 20, based on past release schedules. One rumor from last month claimed that government regulation could hold up the launch of new iPhones in China until late November, but now market watchers are hopeful that Apple could make those devices available in China much sooner.