The disclosure comes from China Mobile (CHL -2.6%) CEO Li Yue following the carrier's Q4 report. Chairman Xi Gouhua says China Mobile added 1.34M 4G subs in February, and that "most of them" were iPhone (AAPL -0.3%) users.
Piper's Gene Munster calls the iPhone number "a disappointment," but remains optimistic about the long-term opportunity. Credit Suisse says the number is in-line with its views, and chalks it up to high prices and 4G network quality issues. Cantor's Brian White is counting on the arrival of bigger iPhones later this year to boost China Mobile sales.
China Mobile began selling the iPhone on Jan. 17, after commencing pre-registrations on Christmas. 1.2M pre-registrations had been tallied by Jan. 15. Street estimates for the carrier's 2014 iPhone sales have ranged from 10M to 20M+.
China Mobile's had 776M mobile subs as of Feb. 28. But a large portion of them can't afford the $700+ prices attached to unsubsidized Chinese iPhone 5S/5C sales. 2013 ARPU was only RMB67 ($10.75).