NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- One of the largest bull cases on Apple (AAPL) is the growing popularity of its devices in China. That wave may be about to be unleashed, as it looks as if the iPhone 5 is going East.
According to a Chinese regulatory Web site, a device that looks a lot like the iPhone 5 has just been approved for a "network access" license in China. It's expected that the iPhone 5 will come to China Telecom (CHA) and China Unicom (CHU) within the next few months. China Telecom Chairman Wang Xiaochu recently said his company hoped to get the popular device by early December.
If Apple is able to get the iPhone 5, which has healthy demand in the United States, in the hands of Chinese citizens in time for the holiday shopping season, Wall Street estimates for iPhone sales could be conservative.
Wall Street has had a difficult time figuring out foreign iPhone sales, as the numbers are not regularly reported, as they are with domestic carriers, such as AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ) and Sprint (S). Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said he believes Apple will sell 45 million units this quarter, but that was based on checks and calls to U.S. Apple Stores. Apple only has seven stores in China and Hong Kong, per its latest list.Apple has been working on iPhone 5 availability and ramping up production, as components become more readily available. Apple's Web site has shown an improvement in iPhone 5 ship dates, as back orders have improved. They've moved from three to four weeks to two to three weeks, now down to one week. Supply and demand are starting to balance, which is inherently a good thing for Apple as CEO Tim Cook noted the response has been tremendous. "The demand for iPhone is extremely robust, we are thrilled with what we see," Cook noted on the company's fourth-quarter earnings call.
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