Apple has paid more attention to China this year, launching the new iPhones in that market in its initial wave for the first time. According to researcher Canalys, the move paid off, as Apple returned to the top-five smartphone maker list in the third quarter.
But when the iPhone debuts on China Mobile, it's inevitable that questions will remain about Apple's ability to grow its share, whether there or globally, said Thompson.
"For several years now any questions about Apple's growth prospects have had a simple answer: just wait until they add NTT Docomo and especially China Mobile," Thompson wrote. "Well, they now have, and the only way forward for significant iPhone growth is the long slog of winning new customers. I certainly think Apple is up to it, but there are no more home runs."
Apple added NTT Docomo, Japan's largest mobile provider with an estimated 61 million customers, to its list of iPhone sellers in September.
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