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iPhone 3.0 preview sways 20% of cell phone owners to buy Apple

Even though Apple Inc. has yet to breathe a word about new iPhones, one out of every five cell-phone-owning consumers is more likely to buy an iPhone based on Apple's preview last month of a summer upgrade of its iPhone software, a market research company said today.

In a poll of nearly 4,300 cell phone owners conducted by ChangeWave Research March 17 to 23, 20% of the respondents said that they were leaning toward buying an iPhone because of the 100 new features Apple is baking into iPhone 3.0. Apple previewed the new operating system March 17 on its Cupertino, Calif., campus, citing such additions as cut-and-paste, MMS, application-wide search and push notification.

Even before Apple's March event, analysts had predicted that the new iPhone software was a sure sign that the company would unveil one or more new iPhones this summer, probably mimicking last year's schedule, when Apple announced the iPhone 3G in June and started selling it in July.

ChangeWave's survey uncovered significant interest in new iPhones, which Apple has yet to announce, much less price. Consumers were asked their buying intentions for a 32GB 3G-capable iPhone priced at $299, a 16GB model at $199 and an 8GB iPhone at $99. (Current models are priced at $299 for an 16GB phone and $199 for an 8GB version.)

A 16GB iPhone for $199 collected the most votes: 11% of the 4,300 people polled said that they would likely buy that model. The alternatives, however, were not far behind: 9% said they would likely buy the 32GB at $299, while 8% said they'd probably purchase the $99 iPhone.

The polling data also showed that future iPhone purchase plans have remained stable since late last year. Of the people who said they were going to buy a new smartphone in the next 90 days, 30% — the same figure as in ChangeWave's December 2008 survey — said they would select an iPhone. Those figures, however, were significantly below a record 56% who said last June that they were planning on buying an iPhone in the following three months.

ChangeWave's director of research, Paul Carton, said the latest numbers should make Apple happy. “When you put it all together, our latest survey findings bode particularly well for the iPhone's long-term outlook,” Carton said in an e-mail. “Its latest moves have clearly positioned it for dynamic growth as the consumer economy moves out of recession.”

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