Yet another analyst firm has declared that an Apple-branded iPod mobile phone is "imminent".

UK analysis firm Visiongain believes the much-rumoured 'iPhone' to be the next product release in Apple's schedule, set to ship this spring.

However, a report last week said the company has faced some problems bringing its iPod phone design up to manufacturing quality. Its release may be delayed until next year, the report claimed.

Visiongain demurs, saying: "The odds are extremely good that Apple will launch an iPhone this spring in tandem with Helio's launch in the US," according to analyst Pam Duffey.

"There exists a relationship between Apple and Helio management that goes back to the ROKR iTunes phone, and Helio has declared a target audience identical to iPod's existing market. Helio's top rank executives have also publicly voiced frustration with mainstream carriers and appear to be on a crusade to radically shake-up the industry," adds Duffey.

EarthLink and SK Telecom joined forces to form US mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Helio. The firm aims to sign-up three million customers by 2009.

"The iPhone will most likely be produced in South Korea by an existing handset maker," Visiongain said.

"The iPhone will likely be as disruptive to the existing carrier market as the iPod was to the mobile music industry. When the iPhone adds VoIP capability, it will be even more disruptive to carriers," Duffey surmised.