BEIJING: Sales of Apple's iPhone are rising rapidly in China, and the company is now set to expand the scale of its operations in the country.

According to the latest figures from the consumer electronics giant, a total of 8.8 million iPhones were sold across the globe in the last quarter.

Within this, the number of units purchased by consumers in Asia jumped by 474% compared with the same period the previous year.

This included an uptick of 183% in Japan, where the mobile sector is particularly competitive, but even this rate of expansion was dwarfed by the progress made in China.

"If you look at Greater China – which we define as mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan – the iPhone units were up year-over-year over nine times," Tim Cook, Apple's chief operating officer, said.

"We are well pleased with how the company is positioned to take advantage of the growth in greater China."

Apple also released details about its revenues in China for the first time, revealing that its sales had reached nearly $1.3bn in the last six months, an improvement of 200% year-on-year.

It has been estimated by analysts that this roughly equates to 2 million iPhones being sold in the country during the last two quarters, at an average price of just over $620.

More broadly, Apple increased the size of its distribution network by 800 outlets in the world's most populous nation during the opening three months of this year.

It is also planning to open two of its own stores in Shanghai in 2010, and has set a target of unveiling 25 further outlets in China by the end of 2011.

"We are very excited about China not only for retail but for Apple," Peter Oppenheimer, Apple's chief financial officer, said.

Morgan Stanley has previously reported that the rate of smartphone penetration currently stands at around 3% in China, measured, compared with 25% in the US.

The investment bank also interviewed 1,050 "high-end Chinese consumers" in December 2009, and found there was a "strong underlying demand for Apple products" among this group.

Data sourced from Seeking Alpha/Fortune; additional content by Warc staff