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Gartner analyst stokes 3G iPhone rumors

An analyst for market research firm Gartner said Tuesday he believes Apple to have placed orders for 10 million 3G iPhones which would employ a more modern form of display screen that could pave the way for a slimmer handset with improved battery life.

Ken Dulaney, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, made the comments in a phone interview with the iPodObserver following a revised recommendation from his firm blessing the current version of the Apple handset for use within the enterprise.

The order of 10 million 3G iPhones — a model that will take advantage of third-generation wireless networks and perform some Internet functions up to ten times as fast as the current 2.5G/EDGE-based model — is said to be in addition to the 10 million first-generation units Apple plans to sell by year's end.

Dulaney's prediction, which is admittedly based on "rumors" overheard in Asia, would appear to support a common theory that the Cupertino-based company will continue to market its first-generation iPhone at a greatly reduced cost once the 3G model hits the market.

On average, analysts on Wall Street are forecasting sales of just over 2 million iPhones for the first calendar quarter of 2008, which would leave Apple some catching up to do if it intends to meet or beat its self-imposed goal of selling 10 million units by year's end.

For its part, however, the company's management has frequently and earnestly reiterated confidence in besting that goal, suggesting a catalyst to spur demand — such as new models and price drops on old models — lay in the wings.

In speaking to the iPodObserver on Tuesday, Dulaney also speculated that that the "so-called 3G iPhone" will use an extremely pricey and cutting-edge Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) display, which could both improve battery life and lead to a slimmer phone.

Though not as widely proven as traditional LCD screens like those used in the current iPhone, OLED displays do not require a backlight to function. As a result, they draw far less power and, when powered from a battery, can operate longer on the same charge. The absence of a backlight also means that OLED displays can be much thinner than LCDs.