We’ve noticed our reports detailing Apple’s continued negotiations to introduce the iPhone into China haven’t quite captured the collective attention of readers, and fresh analysis once again reinforces just why the deal’s so important.

As noted previously today, China Unicom and Apple have at last confirmed a three-year deal to offer the iPhone in the world’s most populous country. Subsequent to this, Broadpoint AmTech analyst, Brian Marshall has issued fresh estimates indicating Chinese iPhone sales will account for 15-20 per cent of Apple’s global iPhone sales next year.

Apple is likely to sell between five to seven million iPhones next year as a result of the deal, the analyst said, observing, “the upside for Apple is great”. He anticipates Apple will sell 37 million iPhones worldwide in 2010.

China Unicom has about 140 million subscribers, that’s under a third of the 460 million subscribers of China’s biggest carrier, China Mobile. The difference between the two firms is that while 80 per cent of the larger carrier’s customers hold pre-paid phone contracts, half of China Unicom’s customer base are on a monthly contract – the very market Apple’s aiming at with the iPhone.

An interesting point that’s emerging on the financial wires this afternoon – Apple has apparently not signed an exclusive deal with China Unicom, with Interactive Investor briefly reporting: "Apple says iPhone deal with China Unicom is not exclusive".

If true, we suggest this has been the consequence of the carrier refusing to offer the computer company a slice of user revenues, suggesting the stage is set for a wider availability in China, potentially making the market the largest potential iPhone market in the world.

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