Apple "is working on mobile phone technology" American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu told clients once again this week.

Wu (who rates Apple stock as a 'Buy' with a $101 price target) warns that when engaged in any kind of speculation on any moves Apple makes "nothing is final until it is final".

Despite this, he told his clients: "We firmly believe Apple has been working on mobile phone technology" but warns that speculation around this activity means Apple's "much-hyped imminent entry is overdone".

He believes the company won't introduce a mobile phone until 2007, or "more likely in 2008-2009". Meanwhile, Apple partner Motorola will produce iTunes-integrated devices to serve the product category, he said.

He also suggests that entering the market will be essential for the company to remain competitive in a converged market. He believes that mobile phones will in future become ever more sophisticated and will integrate more computer-like features - this makes it essential for computer firms to address the market.

Apple will need to secure approval from communications regulators before it is able to release such a device, an approval which would take at least three months from being applied for before any product could be launched. Wu isn't aware of any such filing at this time.

"Apple could protect (itself from) potential leaks by announcing the product and then shipping three months later," he observes.

The analyst also considers that the delay between rumours of an Apple-branded phone and its release could also be caused by the company's need to agree a strategy to bring the product to market. Wu speculates that Apple may choose to work with incumbent mobile network operators, but may choose to become a mobile virtual network operator.

The latter move would offer the company more control of the user experience, and could even exploit its 147 retail stores to create a high street presence for the mooted mobile music device: "We believe Apple is also exploring a vertically integrated model and user experience similar to both its iPod, iTunes and Mac businesses."

What's your take? Does Apple hold mobile plans, or is the notion of an Apple iPod mobile simply wishful thinking. Do you want an Apple iPod phone? Comment on this story