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Cellular iPad Mini and fourth-gen iPad to launch in China on Friday

Consumers in China will be able to get their hands on the cellular versions of the iPad Mini and fourth-generation iPad from this Friday.

The iPad Mini and fourth-generation iPad will be available through Apple’s eight Chinese retail stores as well as authorized resellers and the company’s online store, Apple said in a release, adding that the two devices are now available in more than 100 countries worldwide.

The Wi-Fi-only models have been available in China since last month, with Apple having to wait for regulator approval before it could launch the cellular versions.

China is currently Apple’s second biggest market after the US, but CEO Tim Cook said in a recent interview that he expects the Asian country to become its largest market in time. With a population more than four times greater than that of the US and a rapidly expanding consumer culture, that’s not hard to imagine. He added that he believed a target set in 2010 of opening 25 Apple stores in the country would be comfortably exceeded, though no time frame was given. The tech giant opened its first retail store in China in 2008.

The importance of China to Apple is plain to see, with Cook last week making his second visit there in less than 12 months. During the trip he met with a number of government officials and business partners. He also held a meeting with Xi Guohua, chairman of the world’s largest mobile carrier, China Mobile. Guohua’s company doesn’t yet carry the iPhone, but with over 700 million subscribers on the company’s books, Cook is obviously keen to find a way of securing a deal. The iPhone is currently offered in the country by China Unicom and China Telecom.

The Chinese market performed well for Apple in 2012, with the company doubling its year-on-year revenue there, pulling in $23.8 billion – representing around 15 percent of the company’s total revenue.