BEIJING: Some 91% of consumers living in China's major cities plan to purchase a smartphone when next buying a mobile handset, a trend greatly favouring Apple, Morgan Stanley has argued.

The investment bank polled 2,050 adults, and found the number viewing Apple as a "leading smartphone brand" had grown by eight percentage points from the first half of 2011, now reaching almost 80%.

Nokia, which posted a better rating to Apple in H1, lost eight percentage points on this measure, falling closer to 70%. Samsung, in third place, accrued seven points, taking it to approximately 50%.

Upon discussing the 3G handsets consumers would prefer to buy next, Apple's score rose by six percentage points to 34%, while Nokia haemorrhaged eight percentage points, to 16%.

Indeed, Morgan Stanley reported that the purchase intent for the iPhone is 4.5 times greater than its current share, potentially equating to a gain of 30 percentage points for Apple.

"China could surpass the US as Apple's largest market in about three years, adding nearly $30bn more per year to the top-line along the way," the company added, according to Apple Insider.

Brand loyalty is aiding this process, as Mac users are four times more likely to own an iPhone, on 35%, than the average of 9%. Similarly, 63% of iPhone subscribers had an iPod, dropping to 30% if people used other smartphones.

Currently, 68% of the iPhone audience in China have an iPhone 4, whereas only 20% use the 3GS and 13% possess a 3G model.

Among consumers eager to acquire a smartphone but unsure about the iPhone, 85% named price as a key reason behind this decision. A cheaper variant of this appliance might even boost iPhone volume sales 2.6 times over, Morgan Stanley said.

However, shoppers actively considering Apple's device would also seemingly meet a premium, having pegged their expenditure at an average of RMB2,716 ($427), declining to RMB2,200 for contributors unlikely to buy an iPhone.

The Apple device accounted for 5% of new handsets purchased over a year ago, rising to 8% in the last ten-to-12 months, and 9% for the seven-to-nine month period, Morgan Stanley added.

Totals peaked at 12% when customers bought a handset between four and six months ago, versus 7% in the three months before the study, a dip attributed to "pent up demand" for the iPhone 4S.

Data sourced from Apple Insider; additional content by Warc staff