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Tuesday, May 20, 2008, 04:00 pm PT (07:00 pm ET)

Piper on mid-June 3G iPhone; 1 in 4 waiting for new model; more

Users should expect only modest improvements in a 3G iPhone but a quick launch, according to a new Piper Jaffray research note. Nonetheless, a study says a quarter of iPhone buyers may be waiting on that upgrade. Also, Apple will open a new Florida store this week; a new iPod nano fix is ready; and the US Department of Defense is eyeing Apple's takeover of PA Semi.

Piper: 3G iPhone, software likely conservative

Apple is likely to release an iPhone capable of 3G wireless access earlier than it did the original model last year, but also won't reinvent the product at the same time, says to a new report from financial analysts at Piper Jaffray.

Piper senior analyst Gene Munster and his team estimate that the Apple cellphone will be available in mid-June but that the phone's design will be all but identical save for a thicker casing to fit the bulky 3G chipset and cosmetic changes to freshen its appearance. Aside from boosting the manufacturing cost of the phone from between $12 to $18 more, most of the true revisions will occur next year, the researcher predicts.

"We expect more dramatic changes with the expansion of the iPhone family to multiple models and price points by [January]," he explains.

Munster also estimates that the version 2.0 iPhone software also won't bring a substantially different experience beyond the officially announced third-party apps and Exchange support. Some Wi-Fi only features of today, such as iTunes Store purchases, could be enabled for use over 3G networks, the analyst writes.

He also draws attention to the gap between a mid-June phone release and Apple's promised late-June 2.0 software upgrade, suggesting that Apple may take pre-orders for 3G iPhones after company chief Steve Jobs' WWDC keynote and ship the units when their software is ready. Apple may nevertheless be keen for an early launch, Munster cautions.

"A mid-June shipment... would enable Apple to sell an initial surge of 3G models at the end of the June quarter," he says.

Study: 25 percent of buyers waiting for new iPhone

Information freshly culled from a March study of phone buyers by ChangeWave Research suggests that exactly one quarter of all potential iPhone shoppers are delaying purchases to get the next-generation iPhone.

Of the roughly 3,600 respondents to the survey, 14 percent are waiting for any significant revision to the iPhone before they purchase the device, while another 11 percent are specifically holding out for 3G data — a wish that may be fulfilled in less than three weeks.

"Assuming Apple's next iPhone is 3G-compatible, it's good news for Apple," ChangeWave research head Paul Carton says. "That is the key issue faced by Apple."

Previous results from the company point to current iPhone owners complaining most about slow EDGE speeds, which hamper the touchscreen device's Internet access outside of Wi-Fi range.

In contrast, cost and third-party app support have been secondary problems for Apple. Increases in complaints about cost from 21 to 24 percent between October and March are more likely to relate to worries about the US economy than renewed unhappiness with the iPhone's price, which peaked in July 2007 while Apple continued to sell the iPhone for at least $499.

Apple to open new Florida store

Apple on Tuesday announced a new, considerably lower-key retail store opening than for its Apple Store Brandon in Brandon, Florida will open its doors on Saturday the 24th at 10AM Eastern, located inside the Brandon Town Center Mall.

The outlet is Apple's 13th in the southern US state.

Apple releases iPod nano 1.1.2 update

In addition to its retail plans, Apple has also launched its 1.1.2 update for third-generation iPod nanos.

Apple in customary fashion provides few details on the update, saying that it only applies "bug fixes" to the flash-based music player.

The firmware fix is available solely through iTunes.

DoD scrutinizes Apple's PA Semi buyout

Officials at the US Department of Defense are investigating Apple's $278 million PA Semi bid to ensure it doesn't harm the progress of important military contracts.

A number of the chip designer's partners have presented concerns to the government branch that Apple's planned gradual phaseout of support for PA Semi's existing chips will cut short the supply needed for important contracts, concerns which are equalled by the new government response.

"The 1682 [chip from PA Semi] is a very important and unique component required to meet performance requirements on a wide variety of defense applications," says an investigator for the DoD's Deputy Under Secretary.

The Department hasn't disclosed its options but could potentially block the deal without assurances that support will continue for its equipment.