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iPhone scores 100,000 China Mobile preorders -- analyst

Impressive? Not really, says Wedge Partners analyst Brian Blair, who explains why.

Apple's iPhone 5S.
Apple's iPhone 5S.
Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Apple's iPhone 5S and 5C snared around 100,000 preorders from China Mobile customers in just two days, at least based on estimates from an analyst with Wedge Partners.

On December 22, Apple announced an agreement with China's largest mobile carrier to offer the two new iPhones starting January 17. A tally of 100,000 preorders certainly sounds like a good start. But the number could have been higher, according to analyst Brian Blair, who spoke with AllThingsD.

China Mobile is home to almost 760 million subscribers, so 100,000 is but a tiny fraction of the total base. In September, China Unicom took in around 120,000 preorders for the iPhones, while China Telecom snared around 150,000, Blair noted. Both of those carriers have fewer customers compared with their larger rival.

So why haven't more China Mobile customers tried to grab the iPhone? Timing is one reason.

"What's important to remember is these phones launched in September," Brian Blair told AllThingsD. "Now here we are several months later and there's no subsidy being offered that's so special that the preorders are off the charts. If this had been in September when the phone launched globally, I think the numbers would be a lot higher."

The iPhone subsidies offered by China Mobile are about the same as those with China Telecom and only a bit higher than those with China Unicom, according to Blair. As such, there's no overwhelming reason for an iPhone buyer to opt for China Mobile versus the other two carriers.

The 100,000 preorder estimate is still early and comes from just a single analyst. A more complete picture will start to surface once China Mobile actually launches the iPhones next month. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster projects that China Mobile could sell as many as 17 million iPhones next year, reaching around 2 percent of its overall subscriber base.