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Monday, March 03, 2008, 11:25 am PT (02:25 pm ET)

3G iPhone seen paving way for video capture, overseas adoption

The advent of a 3G iPhone from Apple Inc. later this year will enabled a slew of often-sought media features and present the greatest opportunity for international adoption, according to a pair of Wall Street analysts, who've nonetheless reduced their price targets on the company given recent growth and economic concerns.

In a research report released to clients on Monday, RBC Capital analyst Mike Abramsky said he believes the impact of 3G iPhone has been largely underestimated by the industry. He's expected the device to account for 25 to 30 percent of Apple's iPhone shipments this year after it launches in the second half, contributing to his view that the company will beat its goal of selling 10 million handsets in 2008 by approximately 1 million units.

Noting that some mobile functions can operate up to ten times as fast on a 3G network as they do on an EDGE network, Abramsky told clients that he believes 3G connectivity will "unleash" the true power of the handset and offer a mobile web surfing experience unparalleled elsewhere in the industry.

"Apple is likely to offer a faster processor in the devices, along with more onboard memory, which will also increase speed, downloading/uploading rates and browsing experience — as well as enable higher video quality," he wrote. "The lower latency of 3G and faster processor/memory may likely allow deployment of new features, including video/voice capture, streaming HD video, real-time A-GPS location based services, etc."

The analyst, who cut his price target on Apple shares from $200 to $175 on economic/growth concerns, added that 3G wireless service should also allow users to simultaneously receive calls while browsing the web, as well as receive "over-the-air" media downloads and software updates.

Separately on Monday, Banc of American analyst Scott Craig also cut his price target on the Cupertino-based company (from $180 to $160), following checks with Asian suppliers that confirm near-term demand softness for both the iPod and iPhone.

"Recent checks in Asia for iPhone production suggest another sizable adjustment down to less than 1 million units for [the fiscal second quarter of 2008]," he wrote in a research report. "We believe that demand in the U.S. may have been impacted by the anticipation of a new 3G phone and that European demand for a non 3G iPhone remains lackluster."

Craig added that the introduction of a 3G handset in 2008 and further price reduction on the first generation device are critical to achieving the company’s 10 million unit expectation for 2008. In the meantime, however, the analyst reduced his iPhone sales estimated for the company's March quarter to 1.22 million from 1.62 and his fiscal 2008 estimate to 6.56 million from 7.96 million.

"We estimate roughly 8 million units for [calendar] 2008 compared to management's 10 million unit outlook," he wrote.

Despite the reduction in estimates, the Banc of American analyst advised clients to buy Apple shares at their current levels given that he believes the main driver for the company and its stock near-term is notebooks and desktops.

Nevertheless, shares of Apple were hit hard by both analysts' target cuts, falling $5.15 or over 4 percent to $119.87.