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The iPhone Pulls the Apple Cart

Apple scores another upgrade on the prospect of a $99 iPhone.

Smartphones are a bright spot in tech, and the iPhone is


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one big reason to shine.

Collins Stewart analyst Ashok Kumar upgraded Apple to a buy from neutral Wednesday, citing the iPhone's advantageous position in the smartphone battle with

Research In Motion




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Windows operated devices.

Apple's Macs are facing more

market share losses

this year with the PC industry

recharging with Windows 7 in October

. And the iPod has stalled as phones like the iPhone take on more of the digital music duties.

The big opportunity for Apple is a cheaper iPhone, says Kumar. The cost of materials to build an iPhone has fallen to $130, which "should enable the 8-gigabyte iPhone to hit the $99 price point and stimulate demand elasticity," Kumar wrote in his upgrade note.

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Speculation has abounded that a cheaper iPhone may debut as early as next week, when Apple hosts its Worldwide Developers Conference. As

reported, exclusive telco partner AT&T is

considering a lower-priced calling plan

to help make the iPhone more appealing to lower-spending consumers.

Kumar is the third analyst in two weeks to call for a $99 iPhone. Last week, RBC's Mike Abramsky


that a $99 price could boost iPhone sales by as much as 40% this year.

Apple needs to find a way to juice iPhone sales as the device enters its third year with the same design. Three years tends to be about how long hot designs can stay hot.

Apple also needs to keep its edge as new devices like



Pre and


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N97 keyboard and touchscreen devices hit the market.

Apple shares rose 81 cents to $140.30 in early trading Wednesday.