Just days let to get the lowest prices of the year on Macs & iPads: Apple Price Guides updated Dec 21st (exclusive coupons)

Briefly: Belgium iPhone; 512GB SSDs in sight; Apple web traffic up

Belgium is the latest nation rumored to receive an unlocked 3G iPhone by June. Meanwhile, Toshiba says it plans over the next year or so to quadruple the capacity of its flash-based solid-state drives (SSDs) while simultaneously reducing costs by as much as 50 percent. And traffic to Apple's web properties rose 13 percent during the first quarter of 2008.

Belgium rumored for 3G iPhone

Belgium may soon join the ranks of countries that will receive a 3G iPhone, according to regional site Astel.be. In a move similar to the one rumored for Italy, the online publication claims handset will be available unlocked.

MacNN notes that while this plan may fall in line with rumored tweaks to Apple's iPhone distribution model — by which the handset would fetch a higher retail cost but not required lengthy service contacts — it may also be necessary by Belgian law, as recently the case in France.

Three Belgian carriers — Proximus, Mobistar and BASE — are said to be creating special data packages for the iPhone, supporting unlimited transfers and "visual messaging." It's also reported that like TIM in Italy, Mobistar may have a temporary exclusive on the device that would last a few months.

512GB SSDs from Toshiba around 2009

Toshiba hopes to quadruple the capacity of its solid-state drives in the foreseeable future while cutting their production costs, the company's semiconductor chief Shozo Saito has told an audience at an IDEMA seminar in Japan.

The electronics manufacturer isn't set to ship its 128GB drive in computers until June but says process refinements will let it store up to four data bits per memory cell and shrink the chipmaking process to 30 nanometers by the end of 2009, allowing the company to offer a 512GB drive to system manufacturers like Apple around that time.

By fitting more data into a given space, Toshiba will also reduce the cost of making flash memory itself, Saito says. The Japanese company estimates that it can reduce the price of making SSDs by as much as 40 to 50 percent every year, resulting in far less expensive drives at greater storage levels.

While a 1.8-inch SSD costs 2.9 times as much as its rotating hard disk equivalent, a reliable price drop could reduce the cost to a comparatively reasonable 40 percent premium within the near future.

Apple Web traffic up 13 percent

According to new data from Nielsen Online, Web traffic to the Apple-owned web properties collectively grew 13 percent year-over-year in the first quarter of 2008, from a three-month average monthly unique audience of 42.9 million to 48.4 million.

Total minutes spent on the sites grew 12 percent year over year, from 9.4 billion in Q1 2007 to 10.5 billion in Q1 2008, while total purchases at The Apple Store grew 32 percent month over month, from 322,000 purchases in January 2008 to 424,000 purchases in February 2008. iTunes, Apple Store and QuickTime were the top three fastest growing Apple Computer Web channels year-over-year in Q1 2008

Meanwhile, Nielsen Mobile reports iTunes had 2.9 million unique visitors per month over mobile phones in Q4 2007. iTunes users averaged 9.0 visits at 10 minutes per visit in December. Much of that traffic comes from iPhones, which accounted for 0.5 percent of the embedded US handset market in Q4 2007.