Apple-watchers are excited to note that the company has officially filed for the 'iPhone' trademark - as analysts predict the company will launch two hybrid iPod/mobile phone models, perhaps as soon as Macworld Expo 2007.

A report on Forbes cites new research from Prudential Equity analyst Jesse Tortora. The analyst claims the company is preparing to launch two such devices, basing his information on "sources" and "recent checks".

He predicts both a smart phone and a slim music phone, the report explains. One of these models will include wireless (WiFi) connectivity and a keyboard for messaging.

Recent rumours have speculated the company will launch the phones in conjunction with US mobile network operator, Cingular. More recently, T-Mobile CEO Robert Dotson said Apple's OS "represents the future of next-generation mobile networks".

As reported by AppleInsider, the Apple trademark is described in a Southeast Asian trademark filing that is dated 15 September. The filing occupies several categories, including that of a music player, mobile phone and video game machine.

There have been multiple analysts predicting Apple will release the purported iPod/mobile phone product. Most recently, American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu wrote: ""Our research indicates that an Apple-designed smart phone has moved from concept to prototype and recently has progressed to near completion as a production unit."

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

Shortly after the release of iTunes 7, developers noted that Apple's media management software includes some code that seems designed to support the mythical device.

Gizmodo found multiple mentions of a mobile phone that can play videos and display images inside the code itself. Content management, synchronisation, format incompatibility, manual management of content and other features were hinted at within the code.

One code string explained: "iTunes cannot sync photos to the mobile phone, because your Aperture Library could not be found".

Prudential analyst Tortora expects Apple to manufacture limited quantities of the new devices when they first launch.