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iPhone sales in China ‘disappointing’

But they will improve rapidly, says an analyst, now that Wi-Fi and the iPhone 4 have arrived

"In general, smartphones have exploded in China this year," writes Morgan Keegan's Travis McCourt in a report to clients issued Thursday.

But so far, the major share of that growth has gone to phones running Google's (goog) Android OS, not Apple's (aapl) iPhone or Research in Motion's (rimm) BlackBerry.

Among his key finding:

  • The Chinese smartphone market grew 200% year over year, even as the broader cellphone market grew 220%.
  • Chinese consumers bought 8-10 million smartphones last quarter, up from 2-3 million in the same period last year.
  • Android phones represented 50% of smartphones sold last quarter, up from zero last year.
  • Nokia's (nok) Symbian OS, had 70% of Chinese smartphone market a year ago, is rapidly losing share but still growing revenues.
  • Apple and RIM sold fewer than 500,000 last quarter, results that "have to be viewed as somewhat disappointing," according to McCourt.
  • "RIM continues to be sold only to enterprises/government in China," he writes, "which is significantly hampering its progress."

"But," he concludes, "we suspect iPhone sales will begin to rapidly improve as China Unicom has lowered its pricing, Apple has added WiFi (which was lacking until late summer), and the iPhone 4 has launched (in late September)."

[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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