Apple is top of the leader board in China where it is rated as the most recognised handset brand.

Baidu, the largest Chinese language search engine in China has published a brand awareness billboard, writes MIC Gadget. The results were determined by daily search queries entered on Baidu.com.

The queries are listed in categories allowing users to find the search terms generating the most interest. According to Baidu, iPhone is the most searched for term, which puts Apple in the lead as the number one brand.

iPhone 4S is the most popular searched for handset. Somehow the non-existent iPhone 5 makes an appearance at number 4 in the handset search, meaning many Chinese are searching the new generation iPhone, wanting to know more about the rumoured product, despite the fact that Apple is known for its meticulous secrecy. To demonstrate the level of interest there, the iPhone 5 now available for pre-order in China, apparently. 

The previous favourite, Nokia is now at number three and has just slipped behind Apple's courtroom rival Samsung. The surprising entry is Xiaomi, a relatively new, start-up enterprise, already ahead of Motorola and Sony Ericsson at number 5, ranking as the highest domestic brand.

China is key to Apple’s growth, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster.

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