Apple stands to capture nearly 20 percent of China's sizable smartphone market, giving it a considerable boost in users as its popular iPhone crosses the Pacific, analysts contend.

Rumors that the computer maker is brining its popular phone to China ignited this week after China Unicom, China's second-largest carrier, posted images of the iPhone 3G on its company website, Tuesday.

Should Apple enter, it can quickly take 20 percent of the smartphones in the country, selling roughly 4 million handsets.

Our Asia supply chain checks seem to indicate that Apple believes it can achieve an initial penetration rate, least on a sell-in basis, similar to the iPhone launch in the U.S., Scott Craig, of Bank of America, told clients.

The analyst estimates that Apple can sell 1.5 million iPhones in China in calendar 2009, assuming a mid-year release, with 4.6 million in calendar 2010, and 5.8 million in 2011. His figures assume a price-point of nearly $500-$600.

Typical smartphones in average between $200 and $300. If Apple aims lower than Craig's estimates, Craig says that Apple is likely to easily meet or exceed his estimate.

In fact, given our channel checks in Asia, Apple likely believes it can easily meet (and likely exceed) this and/or believes in other scenarios that result in much higher unit sales levels, he said.

He upped his EPS estimate for 2009 fiscal year to $5.31 from $5.26 and raised his target to $120, from $110.

Apple has been pushing to enter the massive Chinese mobile market for over a year.

In February, the total number of mobile users in China reached 565 million making it the world's biggest cellular phone market, according to government figures.

The company entered negations with China Mobile, the country's largest carrier, nearly 14 months ago but has yet failed to reach an agreement.

China Unicom has 130 million subscribers, making it considerably smaller than China Mobile's 450 million subscriber strong base, though it still is larger than AT&T's 77 million subscribers in the United States.

Shares of Apple fell $2.95 , or 2.66 percent, to $106.3 by mid-day trading.