“On the heels of its second best quarter ever and record Mac sales, Merrill Lynch has upgraded Apple stock from a ‘neutral’ to a ‘buy’ and raised its price target to $72–in part based on the company’s tacit acknowledgement of plans for an iPhone in Wednesday’s conference call,” MacNN reports.

MacNN reports, “Analyst Richard Farmer noted that Apple’s CFO Peter Oppenheimer made an indirect statement on Wednesday, alluding to an iPhone in its Q3 quarterly financial call.”

“‘Although the potential for iPod phone is not news, its financial impact is not in consensus estimates and the fact that management publicly alluded to it (albeit indirectly) on the conference call reinforces the possibility that its introduction could be near enough to influence consensus estimates within the next 12 months,’ Farmer said; however, the analyst does not believe Apple will release such a device until early in 2007,” MacNN reports.

MacNN reports, “‘We are very confident in our ability to compete in the marketplace. And we’re very excited about what we have in the product pipeline, and you know that I can’t comment on that,’ Oppenheimer said in response to an analyst who asked about the impact of Sony’s music phones and their success. ‘As regards cell phones, we don’t think that the phones that are available today make the best music players. We think the iPod is. But over time, that is likely to change. And we’re not sitting around doing nothing.'”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Whopsie! Oppenheimer likely cringed at least inside as those words passed his lips yesterday. He had to know that Steve Jobs would be placing a call on his prototype iPhone as soon as the conference call ended. Looking back at our live conference call notes, we jotted, “Oppenheimer: Music phones aren’t ready to compete with iPod now, but that is likely to change in the future. Apple is ‘not sitting around doing nothing.'” Yup, that qualifies as “tacit acknowledgement of plans for an iPhone.”

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