Updated at 9:15 a.m. PDT with comments from analyst Daniel Amir.
Apple is expected to begin production on a high-end iPhone with 32GB of flash memory and a low-end 3G version this spring, according to a research report released Tuesday by Lazard Capital Markets analyst.
Production is anticipated to begin in April and ramp up in May, and the new phones could be announced in June, Daniel Amir, a Lazard Capital Markets analyst, said in his report.
He noted, however, that the low-end version may only be available in the fast-growing, emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India, and China, while the high-end version is expected to make its way to North America and Europe.
The low-end version is expected to run on a 3G network, rather than on Wi-Fi, while the high-end version is anticipated to double its storage capacity from 16GB to 32GB of NAND flash memory and feature improvements to its camera, Amir noted in his report, citing checks with Apple's iPhone channel partners.
Meanwhile, Amir predicts, iPhone unit shipments for the first and second quarters could be higher than Wall Street's current forecast.
He expects iPhone shipments to come in around 3.8 million to 4 million in the first quarter, while Wall Street is anticipating 3 million to 3.5 million units.
In the second quarter, iPhone shipments could reach 7 million to 8 million units, a threefold to fourfold increase over last year's second quarter performance, he asserts. Apple's new iPhones are expected to account for about 3 million of these figures, Amir said. Wall Street, meanwhile, is expecting Apple to ship 6.5 million to 7 million iPhones in the second quarter.
Apple was not immediately available for comment.
Reports of an Apple flash-memory buying binge surfaced in February, with one analyst from Think Equity Partners noting that Apple had virtually cleaned out one large supplier and was hitting up two others for more flash memory.
Amir told CNET New that the February rise stemmed from increased production for the iPhones that shipped in March. In order to meet its needs for a 32GB iPhone, Apple will hit up its suppliers up toward the end of next month, he said.
Amir noted in his research report:
About 20 percent of all NAND capacity goes to Apple, and its impact on the NAND market should not be underestimated...
NAND prices should move up further off the Apple orders. We believe that with the new iPhone design which could include 32GB NAND, Apple is setting the stage for another potentially big flash order starting in April. With the potential for 3 million units to be shipped in 2Q, we believe the magnitude of such an order could enable prices of NAND components to move up an additional 20 percent in the (first half) of 2Q.