NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Apple's ( AAPL) redesigned iPhone could be a blockbuster hit, says an analyst at RBC. And the prediction is not necessarily based on the assumption of a Verizon ( VZ) iPhone. Citing a survey of 1,000 people, RBC's Mike Abramsky says 20% of the respondents intend to buy the fourth version of the iPhone due next month. This is more than twice the number of eager buyers surveyed prior to the original iPhone three years ago.
Abramsky estimates Apple will sell 23 million of the redesigned "HD" iPhone this year, which is more than half of the 40 million iPhone sales estimate he has for 2010. Included in Abramsky's forecast is the arrival of a CDMA-based iPhone, "but not necessarily at Verizon this year," he says. The timing of the new iPhone coincides with the expiration of the original two-year iPhone contracts and the large number of AT&T ( T) customers eligible for phone upgrades. Apple is expected to unveil its newest iPhone on June 7 at its developers' conference in San Francisco. A prototype of the new iPhone made a big splash last month when Gizmodo documented and displayed the device after purchasing it from a guy who claimed to find it at a Silicon Valley bar.
The new design is a welcome refresh after three years with the original model. Gone is the shiny plastic curved back and the shiny chrome frame. The new iPhone appears to be flatter and have metal buttons on the side. Respondents in RBC's survey expect the new phone to be faster and include an improved camera. But even casual observers will acknowledge that the strongest feature of the "HD" iPhone is that it is new and it's from Apple, which tends to play well with core fans. The shiny new object did little for Apple shares Thursday, which fell 2% amid widespread selling. Apple is now down 6% in the past week, due largely to a jittery financial market focused on Europe. --Written by Scott Moritz in New York.