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Apple iPhone sales looking extra rosy this quarter

It's shaping up to be a particularly merry holiday for Apple, with Wall Street analysts raising their predictions on how many iPhones got snapped up recently.

Apple's iPhone sales this holiday quarter could exceed even the most optimistic forecasts.

Yesterday, AT&T said it is poised to shatter its record for fourth-quarter smartphone sales, largely due to pent-up demand for the iPhone. As a result, a number of Wall Street firms have raised their already lofty estimates on iPhone sales for the quarter, with some warning that they may still be too conservative.

The raised estimates are a clear illustration that while the Android OS may dominate the smartphone world, the iPhone remains a massive draw for consumers. Also helping out are promotions, such as the iPhone 3GS being sold for a penny at AT&T, and the iPhone 4 being hawked for $99 at its three wireless carriers. The lower-cost devices have helped Apple target more budget-conscious customers still coveting its blockbuster phone.

UBS analyst Maynard Um has raised his estimate for calendar fourth-quarter iPhone sales to 30 million from 28 million.

"We continue to believe that our estimates are conservative as these revised estimates are still below where expected build plans are," Um said in a research note to clients.

William Power, an analyst at Robert W. Baird, predicts AT&T alone will sell 7 million iPhones in the quarter, giving Apple 14 million units sold in the U.S. He is even more optimistic than Um, raising his estimate to 31.2 million from 27.3 million.

Apple had previously seen weaker iPhone sales prior to the launch of the iPhone 4S as consumers held off on buying a device. Since the launch, the carriers have been ecstatic about consumer response. Sprint Nextel CEO Dan Hesse previously said sales would surpass Wall Street's and his own expectations, while Verizon Wireless said the phone continues to be on back order and has done a good job of convincing existing basic phone customers to upgrade to a smartphone.

AT&T, meanwhile, said it has already sold 6 million smartphones in the first two months of the fourth quarter, and will certainly exceed its previous record of 6.1 million.