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iPhone 3G to be in healthy supply as iPod touch supplies weaken

Apple should have ample stock of iPhone 3G when it touches down this month, according to analysts, who also note that Apple stands to make more from each device than once thought —and that iPod touch stocks are continuing to run down ahead of a possible refresh.

In his note to investors, Lehman Brothers analyst Ben Reizes cites sources which claim that Apple's manufacturing schedule should be enough to satisfy much if not all of the initial demand on July 11th.

"iPhone build plans for June may be better than some had thought, which could mean that iPhone demand is met on July 11 with fewer shortages," he says, maintaining that Apple will sell 3.6 million iPhone 3G devices in the summer and as much as 23 million for all of Apple's fiscal 2009.

Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray adds that AT&T's complete official pricing for iPhone 3G units suggests Apple is making more from the reportedly abundant iPhone stock than estimated in the past.

Although the $199 starting price is much lower for the customers themselves, the $599 month-to-month price hints that the carrier subsidy cuts much deeper and hides greater profits for Apple, which could be asking $500 for each iPhone versus an earlier estimate of $425.

"This discrepancy leads us to believe our [average selling price] is conservative," Munster says.

A change of this level would boost Apple's calendar 2009 revenue by eight percent, he adds. Reitzes also points out that steep drops in the prices of NAND flash memory could further help Apple's bottom line by reducing the manufacturing costs of each iPhone.

Apple's recognition of the iPhone's popularity may also be playing into ongoing but small-scale iPod touch shortages, according to the analyst: stocks of 16GB iPod touch models at Best Buy have continued to drop in the past two weeks and have had less than three quarters of the retail stores carrying stock at any given time. Supplies of 8GB versions are also starting to decline, although once again Apple's back-to-school deal is believed to be curbing Apple's ability to maintain stock.

The Cupertino-based firm may be winding down stock as it prepares to reposition the iPod touch given the iPhone's much lower price, Reitzes predicts. An update is expected by September.

He also notes that lead-times are starting to grow for Apple's special-order 1.8GHz MacBook Air and 3.06GHz iMac computers, which now take between two to four business days to ship and are described as early signs that Apple is readying new MacBooks in time for back-to-school purchasing.

Both iPod and Mac sales are tracking above expectations for the spring, in part because of the halo effect of the iPod touch, according to the Lehman analyst.