As Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL ) two most widely anticipated September media events approach -- the first beginning next Tuesday in the U.S., and the second scheduled a mere nine hours later in China -- the world has grown increasingly more frantic in its attempts to figure out what, exactly, the Cupertino-based tech giant has in store.
Of course, one of the most persistent bits of yet-to-be-verified speculation involves a lower-priced "iPhone 5C," which investors hope will be targeted toward penetrating the fast-growing Chinese mobile market.
Apparently, though, someone at China Telecom (NYSE: CHA ) managed to jump the gun Thursday, as the following press release (roughly translated) was posted on the company's Weibo customer service page:
For those of you who can't read Chinese, here it is roughly translated:
China has been chosen as [a/the] first country where the iPhone 5S/5C will be shipped! Weibo preorder time! If you want to be one of the people who gets a handset on day one, click: [Pre-order Link]. Those who successfully preorder will also enjoy a high-end gift bag. (Because the iPhone products haven't actually shipped yet, detailed numbers and actual shipping information may change.
The post was unsurprisingly taken down minutes later, but not before multiple Chinese news sites were able to grab screenshots.
In addition, the target page for the supplied pre-order link (which incidentally ends with "iPhone5s.asp") remains active, and now simply reads "Stay Tuned....," along with a form to leave your name and phone number for more information if you so choose.
No, not that Apple surprise
So what does this all mean?
First, it's important to note the still-active, aptly named pre-order link above effectively reinforces assertions that the temporary post was actually the real deal. After all, you can bet any included Chinese telecoms should be prepping like crazy about now for the coming Apple onslaught next week.
However, this doesn't confirm the biggest piece of China-centric news for which Apple investors have long hoped -- namely, that the September 11 event would involve an announcement saying Apple has finally come to an agreement with the country's largest carrier in China Mobile (NYSE: CHL ) , which boasted nearly 745 million subscribers at the end of Q2.
For reference, that's more than twice the 338 million total subscribers collectively held last quarter by both China Unicom and China Telecom.
Of course, as fellow Fool Daniel Sparks also recently pointed out, less than 20% of China Mobile's subscribers are currently utilizing the company's 3G network, compared to more than 39% and 51% 3G penetration for China Unicom and China Telecom, respectively. As a result, it seems a massive understatement to say a lower cost iPhone deal with China Mobile could mean an enormous amount of added revenue and earnings for Apple, regardless of whether the company's total margins are negatively affected.
Nonetheless, with the iPhone 5C all but confirmed at this point, Apple investors who simply couldn't wait until next week should be overjoyed that their company is finally taking more deliberate action toward winning the business of the world's largest rising middle class.