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Apple still negotiating terms for third-gen iPhone with carriers

With just weeks to go before Apple is expected to take the wraps off its new family of touchscreen handsets, the iPhone maker remains engaged in talks with carriers vying to join its expansive fleet of authorized wireless providers.

Word of the ongoing discussions was leaked Tuesday evening via a Twitter blast from Telecom New Zealand, which responded to one of its customer inquiries about the upcoming iPhone launch by saying: "We are in negotiations with Apple... we are very focused on the 3rd gen iPhone.. we will keep u updated."

Though there were some initial doubts about the legitimacy of the Twitter feed, a subsequently article in New Zealand's National Business Review added further confirmation of the matter when it cited Telecom NZ's chief of retail Alan Gourdie as saying the carrier was in “discussions - deep discussions - with Apple”.

The talks are the latest signs that Apple is looking to expand its footprint internationally with its upcoming iPhone refresh by growing the number of carriers that offer the device in some countries.

The Cupertino-based company has already partnered with dozens of carriers in nearly 80 countries, but made comments recently to suggest that offering customers more than one choice of carrier has delivered benefits through increased competition.

New Zealand is one example, like the United States, that doesn't yet fit this mold. The iPhone is offered solely by Vodafone. But in Australia, three carriers do battle for subscribers. This has proven beneficial for customers because it pressures providers into offering more affordable service contracts and boosting the quality of their wireless networks.

In addition to broadening its reach in existing countries, Apple also plans grow geographically this year by extending iPhone availability to even more countries, members of the company's management recently told analysts for Oppenheimer during a meeting at its corporate headquarters.

That's just one approach the iPhone maker plans to take in order to grow its share of the smartphone market this year. Others, according to management, include providing more functionality, lowering prices, or segmenting the market with different models.

When it comes to segmentation of models, however, management was firm in stating that the "iPhone will remain a software centric device," meaning customers shouldn't expect the company to differentiate its smartphone offerings with hardware features but rather software capabilities.