Apple has surpassed Nokia as China’s smartphone brand of choice, according to a new report published by Morgan Stanley which also shows a sharp rise in interest in Android devices.

The findings of the research, which surveyed 2,050 urban Chinese mobile phone users in September, reveal “a surge in iPhone growth” in China as Apple and its flagship device continue to grow in popularity in the world’s most populous country.

While this many not seem like news to many, Morgan Stanley’s previous report ranked Nokia as the preferred smartphone brand amongst the urban audience surveyed. According to its latest data though, more than one third of respondents polled plan to make the iPhone their next phone, that’s an increase of 4 percent on the last report and it sees the Cupertino giant take top spot.

While the growth in demand for the iPhone is consistent without being huge, a sizeable loss in interest for Nokia is particularly noteworthy. Preference for buying a Nokia device as the next purchase is down 9 percent, a sign that the report is taking to show a loss of interest in its devices and a drop in its brand reputation in China. Declines are also registered for devices from RIM (down 3 percent) and Sony Ericcson (down 4 percent).

Despite the lessening interest in Nokia, the Finish manufacturer’s phones remain the most owned within those surveyed, accounting for around 4 in 10 devices with Apple ranking third behind Samsung.

chinaiphone.102611 520x422 New report ranks the Apple iPhone as Chinas most desired smartphone

The fact that so many of the respondents owned Nokia devices could be one factor responsible for its drop, with increasing numbers of smartphones available the choice and potential to change to a new phone has never been greater.

On the subject of the iPhone 4S, Apple’s latest version of the device, Morgan Stanley concludes that the delay has created “pent up demand” for the device. This phenomenon is not only confined to China however as countless smartphone enthusiasts across the world wait on iPhone product launches before planning which phone they will buy next.

The is a survey about preference not sales and there is no guarantee that those that intend to buy an iPhone will actually follow through and buy the device, when the iPhone 4S finally arrives in China. Equally China Unicom exclusive hold on the iPhone in China could be a factor that restricts some interest in the device – despite the fact that 10 million China Mobile subscribers use iPhones on its network.

Nonetheless, the report is an further indicator of China’s growing consumer interest in Apple, while heightened interest in HTC and Samsung, both of which support the Android operating system (OS), also stands out.