iPhone sales have boosted Apple’s quarterly profit by 15 per cent – despite economic woes and a new handset expected later this year.

The company also said co-founder Steve Jobs intends to return from his medical leave as scheduled at the end of June.

For the three months ended 28 March, Apple’s second-quarter net profits rose to USD $1.21 billion. In the same period last year Apple earned USD $1.05 billion.

Apple said it sold 3.8 million iPhones worldwide in the quarter, more than twice as many as a year ago.

iPhone revenues reached USD $2.2 billion for the quarter – a success that Apple’s Chief Operating Officer, Tim Cook, attributed to strong consumer interest in downloading applications. Apple expects to announce its one billionth app down load tomorrow.

An estimated combined total of 37 million iPhone and iPod touch’s have created an enormous platform for developers, which he said "unleashes a whole new level of innovation that keeps Apple years ahead of everyone else".

The popularity of the touchscreen smartphone has also helped the earnings of its exclusive US carrier, AT&T.

Elsewhere, Apple sold 11 million iPods, up 3 per cent. However, its Macintosh computer line performed less well, with a 3 per cent fall in Mac sales and a 16 per cent drop in revenue.

Overall, Apple’s average revenue per retail store sank 17 per cent in the quarter.

Attention will now be focused on how the continuing economic situation – and the launch of Palm’s Pre and various other smartphones – impacts on the iPhone.

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