Driven again by China, Apple's iPhone shipments expected to hit 51M for June quarter

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Apple is poised to announce yet another record breaking quarter, the latest research from investment firm UBS suggests, with iPhone sales once again driven to new heights thanks largely to growth in China.

Using data from the UBS Evidence Lab iPhone Monitor, analyst Steven Milunovich on Thursday said he expects Apple shipped 51 million iPhone units in the just-concluded June quarter. A copy of the research note was provided to AppleInsider.

Apple will report its June quarter results on Tuesday, July 21.

UBS's research suggests that consumer demand for the iPhone in the June quarter was at about 49.4 million units. With excess inventory to replenish channels, Milunovich believes the company shipped 51 million units during the three-month period —  an increase from his previous forecast of 50 million.

Apple's growth story continues to emanate from China, where UBS's data found that search volume related to the iPhone is up 100 percent year over year. UBS also found that Apple is finding success in China at multiple income levels, with consumers upgrading to more expensive phones like the iPhone.

Milunovich also revealed that Apple has the highest brand commitment level of any smartphone manufacturer in China, meaning consumers are likely to stick with the iPhone for their next upgrade.

There are some concerns on Wall Street that a slowing Chinese economy could be a risk for Apple, but UBS economist Tao Wang said the current turmoil in the Chinese stock market is not likely to have a significant impact on the nation's economy. He cited data showing that household wealth jumped 6 percent in just the last nine months.

"The correlation between consumption and stock prices is ambiguous," Milunovich wrote. "We think Apple is okay for now, but we will watch the situation closely."

Apple is set to report its June quarter results after markets close in the U.S. on Tuesday, July 21. Market predictions for the iPhone generally fall between 40 million and 50 million units, though more bullish projections from Brean Capital and Morgan Stanley call for shipments of 53 million.