Apple has developed an iPod with mobile phone features and will release the new product next year, an analyst said last night.

The phone isn't a rumour, but a reality, he asserts, and initial production glitches have been worked out - the device is "set for production".

"We have believed that Apple has been working on mobile phone technology for years, but we had been sceptical in terms of timing due to the difficulty for new players entering the market," the analyst said.

American Technology Research analyst, Shaw Wu, warned investors to buy Apple stock now if they want to be in position to profit from the impact of the release of the new product next year.

Apple plans to reinvent category

"We believe this phone has been in development for over 12 months and has overcome substantial challenges including design, interference, battery life, and other technical glitches," he wrote.

"We believe that Steve Jobs is finally satisfied with the end product Apple engineers have produced in terms of quality and the right blend of phone and portable media player - and we are confident given his previous record of very high standards that this will be no exception," he added.

The design will be an iPod nano-like "candy bar form factor" and come in three colours (black, white, and platinum), the analyst explained.

Apple's opportunity

Wu sees no reason for it to fail, observing: "There were plenty of sceptics when Apple first launched its iPods that ended up revolutionising an emerging market and created a new business segment and a major revenue driver for the company."

He notes that the iPod continues to dominate, and decribes Apple's foray into the mobile phone industry as an "enormous opportunity" for the company.

He predicts Apple could add another $2 billion to its revenues when it releases the device, and notes that even 1 per cent of the world's giant mobile phone industry would be good news for the firm.

The analyst raised his estimates on Apple stock to $22.2 billion and $2.60 earnings per share for Apple's 2007 financial year on strength of his optimism for the device.