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Attention Wal-Mart Shoppers: iPhones In Aisle Three

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Buy one. Save money. Live better.

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Wal-Mart (WMT) may soon establish itself as the purveyor of fine gizmos to the masses.

The world's largest retailer is about to offer Apple's (AAPL) upscale iPhone in addition to rock-bottom prices on paper towels, socks and laundry detergent. Sales of the smartphone at Wal-Mart could begin this month.

Neither Wal-Mart nor Apple has confirmed the move, brushing aside press inquires with a polite "No comment." The deal wouldn't be without precedent: Wal-Mart already carries Apple's iPod. Clearly, Steve Jobs isn't worried about Sam Walton damaging his image.

Apple, which wants to boost sales, knows Wal-Mart is one of the few bright spots in a dismal retail market. Its November US sales were up 6.5% from a year ago.

Apple may soon sell a 4GB model of the iPhone for just $99 - but Wal-Mart won't be getting any of its patented price-breaks. Apple is one of the few suppliers the big-box monster can't strong-arm into selling its products at its own loss (and Wal-Mart's gain).

There may not be any sticker shock at Wal-Mart, but several additional fees will be unavoidable: Data services for unlimited Internet access is $30 a month, and text messaging will range anywhere from $5 for 200 messages to $20 for unlimited service. AT&T (T) is the iPhone's exclusive US wireless carrier.

The iPhone/Wal-Mart hookup makes good sense overall -- the handheld faces stiff competition from Research in Motion's (RIMM) BlackBerry Storm, among others -- and the device should sell well, even if there are a select few who hate the thing.

For more on Wal-Mart, check out Hoofy and Boo's always astute report.

No positions in stocks mentioned.
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