BEIJING: Apple has announced a partnership with China Merchant Bank that will allow local shoppers to buy the electronics firm's products on interest-free credit. 

Holders of credit cards with the bank will be able to repay money used to purchase Apple products costing between RMB 300 ($48) and RMB 30,000 ($4,800) interest-free over a 12-month period, the Financial Times reports. Longer repayment periods incur interest: 6.5% over 18 months and 8.5% over 24 months.

The move, which comes a few days ahead of the Chinese launch of the 3G version of the iPad mini, will make Apple's devices more affordable to those on lower incomes, who are currently driving smartphone demand in the Asian market.

Notwithstanding the successful launch of the iPhone 5 in China last year, with 2m units sold in three days, the company's market share has declined, from 23.3% in Q3 2011 to 4.2% in Q3 2012 according to Enfodesk, the insights group.

The absence of mid-priced or low-end devices in the US firm's portfolio has contributed to the outperformance cheaper Chinese brands such as Lenovo and Huawei.

Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive, said last week that he did not see price as an obstacle to potential demand.

"There are no Apple products that you would look at and say they are not for China." he said. "People around the world, regardless of culture, really want the best products."

Cook also said he believed that China, currently Apple's second largest market, would become its first in the future.

Data sourced from the Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff