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updated 1/17/2014 12:46:46 PM ET 2014-01-17T17:46:46

Cracking China's mammoth mobile market may be harder than Apple anticipated.

When the latest iPhones were unveiled today by the country's largest carrier, China Mobile--after years of protracted negotiations --the local response was far less frenzied than the hype that typically surrounds an Apple announcement.

According to The New York Times, "only about a dozen customers showed up to buy iPhones at the opening of a store in Beijing--despite the presence of a special guest, the Apple chief executive Timothy Cook."

While, in the past, the iPhone has been an iconic brand in China, "it has lost ground to the market leader in smartphones, Samsung Electronics, and cut-price domestic rivals," reports the Times.

And the company's steep prices aren't helping matters. An unsubsidized, unlocked iPhone 5s via China Mobile is roughly $875--the same price that Apple charges in its own stores. On a two-year contract, China Mobile offers the phones for free--but with payments of nearly $100 per month.

Related:  Apple Seeks Bigger Bite of China's Massive Mobile Market

Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.

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