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iPhone 6 still has no launch date at China Mobile

With no arrival date for Apple's latest iPhone, China's largest carrier will focus more on cheaper, unsubsidized phones.

Apple's iPhone 6. CNET

The iPhone 6 is still without a due date at the world's largest mobile carrier.

Speaking at an industry forum on Tuesday, Wang Xiaoyun, general manager of China Mobile's technology department, said the carrier's focus will now be on unsubsidized 4G phones that cost less than 600 yuan ($98), Bloomberg reported. As for Apple's iPhone 6? Xiaoyun said she doesn't know when it will be available in China.

As the iPhone 6 preps to launch this Friday in the US and other key markets, the new phone may have to wait until next year to land in China, the country's 21st Century Business Herald said on Tuesday, citing an unidentified person close to Apple. The latest iPhone has reportedly not yet received the necessary government approval from China's Ministry for Industry and Information Technology, which is stalling its launch. If true, that means the phone won't be available through any of China's top three carriers -- China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom -- until such approval comes through.

Carolyn Wu, a Beijing-based spokeswoman for Apple, told Bloomberg that she couldn't provide a date for the China release and said simply that "China is a key market for us and we will get here as soon as possible." CNET contacted Apple for comment and will update the story with any further details.

China has become a core market for Apple and other mobile device makers. In 2011, China surpassed the US as the world's largest smartphone market. Apple sold a record number of iPhone 5S units in China during fourth quarter of 2013, while the country overall accounted for 16 percent of Apple's $37.4 billion in sales last quarter, according to Bloomberg. Any delay or dispute over the launch of the iPhone 6 at this point would bite into Apple's bottom line, at least for 2014.

Apple did run into challenges trying to convince China Mobile to carry the iPhone reportedly because the carrier didn't want to pay the heavy subsidies that Apple requested. China Mobile's new strategy is a sign that it believes it could save money and still attract customers by offering cheaper phones that don't necessarily burden it with a hefty subsidy.

"The direction of our development is to completely focus on the mass market," China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua told reporters on Tuesday. "We have 4G devices selling for 1,000 yuan ($163). I believe, subsidy or no subsidy, discount or no discount, the common person will be able to appreciate this."

Starting September 19, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be available in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico and Singapore. Apple plans to launch the new iPhones across 115 different countries by year's end.