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SAN JOSE, Calif. - Apple’s iPhone took a step closer to store shelves Thursday as regulators gave it their stamp of approval.


The Federal Communications Commission issued a “grant of equipment authorization” for the widely anticipated gadget. Although expected, the approval is necessary before a manufacturer can sell a handset to consumers.


Apple and Cingular reaffirmed the iPhone will reach stores next month.


“The device is going to be available, as we and Apple have been saying all along, in late June,” said Mark Siegel, a spokesman for Cingular, the only U.S. wireless carrier that will carry the iPhone.


FCC approval comes one day after tech blog Engadget reported that an internal memo from Apple said the company would delay the device until October. Engadget later retracted the report, saying it was based on a spoof e-mail, but not before Apple’s stock dropped some 4 percent on the initial news.


In addition to making voice calls, the device will function as a music player and will offer computer features, such as the ability to surf the Web.


Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced the long-expected device, Apple’s first cell phone, in January at Macworld. The company will offer two versions of it, one with 4 gigabytes of flash memory priced at about $500 and the other with 8 gigabytes of memory for about $600.


Apple has demonstrated its usual penchant for secrecy with the phone. It and Cingular have yet to say the exact date of its launch. And in its application with the FCC, Apple asked the agency to keep some other details private.


The company asked that the FCC delay releasing external or internal photographs of the iPhone as well as its user manual for 45 days after the agency approves the device. That means that such information likely won’t come out until after the iPhone shows up on store shelves. Apple also asked that the commission permanently block the release of other technical and design details that it included in its application.


“Although Apple has begun to market the device publicly, these documents reveal technical and design information that has not been publicly disclosed,” Robert Steinfeld, the company’s wireless compliance manager, said in a letter to the FCC. “Disclosure of this information ... prior to the commercial release would harm Apple by giving competitors an unfair market advantage.”


The FCC granted the company’s confidentiality requests.

Tagged as: apple | iphone
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