The Apple iPhone is set to be a big hit when it hits UK shores later this year. A survey suggests seven million Britons have a strong interest in buying an iPhone.

More than half (56 per cent) of mobile phone users in the UK had heard of the Apple iPhone, according to mobile measurement firm M:Metrics ' April Benchmark Survey.

Of these, 30 per cent said they had a 'strong interest' in buying an Apple iPhone , even if a UK launch date hasn't been set yet.

That suggests some seven million UK mobile users could be considering buying an iPhone.

Believing the iPhone hype

"We expected that mobile users in the UK would be more inclined to buy an expensive device, since smartphones are twice as popular in the UK as in the US," said Paul Goode, vice president and senior analyst at M:Metrics.,

"These figures are very impressive," he added, "although respondents in the UK were not presented with a launch price or any restriction of mobile phone carrier as in the US."

"It's also interesting to note that in both geographies, 64 per cent of those with a strong interest in buying an Apple iPhone already own an MP3 player, compared to a market average of 30 per cent for other music phones owners, so it will be interesting to see at what rate consumers replace their digital music player with an Apple iPhone."

No UK launch date for iPhone

In the US, 64 per cent had heard of the imminent Apple iPhone. Some 14 per cent of those said they would be 'highly interested' in buying one once it's released on 30 June.

"This data confirms that the Apple iPhone has sparked the imaginations of consumers and is not merely a topic of conversation among insiders and technology enthusiasts," said Mark Donovan, senior vice president and senior analys at M:Metrics.

"While other devices - some of them already on the market - have features equal or better than the Apple iPhone, such as 3G, superior cameras, and the like, the Apple iPhone has been the first mobile device to create widespread consumer excitement around a mobile phone," Donovan added.

The iPhone launches in the US on June 29, where it will be available on a two-year Cingular contract. A UK launch should happen before the end of the year. Apple has yet to make a decision about which of the UK mobile companies (T-Mobile, Orange, Vodafone, O2, 3, Virgin Mobile) it will partner with. Nor has any price been set.