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Remember when we told you about how China could be the largest market for Apple within 24 months?  Well, the company could be getting closer to making that prediction a reality.

Apple is reportedly preparing both an iPhone 5S and a lower-cost iPhone for launch in August or September, according to a research note from Barclays analyst Kirk Yang that was reported in Taiwan’s Commercial Times.

The note said that each of the devices will be available in two models: one supporting the standard frequency-division duplexing (FDD) technology used in most of the world and one supporting the time-division duplexing (TDD) use by China Mobile.

What does that mean?  Well, China Mobile, which is the world’s largest largest carrier with more than 700 million subscribers, has faced some barriers to offering the iPhone.  China Mobile has said that the iPhone could only come to its network after it introduces a 4G platform called LTE-TDD (Long-Term Evolution Time-Division Duplex), expected to launch by the end of the year.  The 4G LTE technology offers peak speeds of up to 100Mbps.  China Mobile just announced four smartphones built to run on its upcoming 4G LTE TDD network. The handsets come from foreign brands including HTC and LG, and Chinese handset makers Huawei and ZTE.

If other companies are able to offer a smartphone on 4G LTE technology, there is no reason why Apple can’t.  The Yang report claims that Apple is still weighing production volume for the new phones, including how much the lower-cost iPhone will cut into iPhone 5S sales and gauging appropriate volumes for an expansion to China Mobile.

Most carriers across the world are using LTE-FDD to build their 4G networks.  If Yang’s note is correct, those carriers would also be able to offer the FDD version of the iPhone, expanding Apple’s reach across the globe.

However, Yang’s report conflicts with a report yesterday from Macotakara, which claimed that Apple’s lower-cost iPhone is not likely to appear until 2014.

Either way, if the iPhone makes it to market over the next 18 months, Apple could become the number one smartphone brand in China.  Currently, Samsung is the largest smartphone brand in China with 16.7 percent of the market, followed by Lenovo at 14.8 percent.  Apple has 6.9 percent of the market, according to Gartner.


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