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Friday, August 29, 2008, 05:00 am PT (08:00 am ET)

iPhone 3G finally reaching supply and demand balance

After more than six weeks of almost constant iPhone 3G shortages, Apple is finally known to be getting a grip on its retail supply and has virtually every model in stock everywhere.

Research by analyst Ben Reitzes of Lehman Brothers reveals that, as of Tuesday evening, all US Apple retail stores had 16GB iPhones in either color ready to sell for the following morning — a feat which Apple hasn't managed since Lehman first began canvassing the stores just days after the July 11th launch.

Even the 8GB model, which for several of the reports was often in the shortest reply, showed 99 percent availability across the electronics giant's retail network.

"We have seen a major improvement in iPhone availability in the US throughout August," Reitzes says. "It appears as though supply has met demand entering September (as expected)."

The equilibrium isn't seen as slowing demand and instead simply reflects Apple stepping up its production, he adds, reiterating his belief that earlier estimates of 3.8 million iPhones sold during the September quarter are "very conservative" and that this surge of sales could spill over into Apple's fiscal 2009.

Further tracking by Lehman also suggests unusual activity among iPods. While supply of most iPods at Best Buy dipped at least slightly lower from a stock check two weeks ago, availability of the 32GB iPod touch dropped from 94 percent of stores to just 82 percent this week ,or its lowest point since the surveys began in mid-June.

Reitzes maintains that Apple will need to target the iPod touch at a different price bracket now that the iPhone is as inexpensive as it is; the opinion gained momentum over the weekend with a detailed rumor from Digg head Kevin Rose implying that Apple would not only modify the iPod touch but slash iPod prices across the board to bring them into step with the newly discounted cellphone.

Supplies at Apple's online store, however, don't hint at any imminent upgrades; besides steady iPod supplies, all Macs remain at their usual 24 hour availability outside of normally delayed special order iMac and MacBook Air models.

Sources for AppleInsider maintain that Apple will have new iPods in early September, followed by new MacBooks and then iMacs before the end of the year.