Ever since Apple’s first-generation iPhone unexpectedly began to disappear from Apple and its partners’ store shelves, and supposed images of a next-generation device started to appear, discussion of the iPhone 2 has dominated the news. Unfortunately, many different reports, rumors, and proclamations are now floating around, so it’s hard for fans to keep everything straight. Today, to make things easier on our readers, we’ve gathered up everything we do know, may know, and don’t know about the next-generation iPhone. Here’s the big picture.
The nickname “3G iPhone” has been used to refer to the upcoming handset since before the current-generation iPhone was released. Though this name is based on the “third-generation” cellular phone technology it’s expected to employ, it is unlikely that Apple will adopt this name for the final product. In years past, with products such as the iPod, the company has chosen to keep its single names intact, instead referring to newly-updated products as “The New iPod” or “The New iPod nano;” it seems likely to do the same with the iPhone. The one case in which Apple might add an extra tag to the new device’s name would be if it plans to sell two models. Speculation has centered upon whether Apple will sell both the original model and the updated version side-by-side in the same market, but industry sources have described this as unlikely, and repeatedly dwindling stocks of current iPhone models suggest that Apple is not making enough to last for even two months, let alone the rest of the year. However, two new models—a la iPod and iPod nano—are a possibility.
The most well-established feature of the next iPhone is its move from dependence on “2.5G” EDGE cellular networks to the ability to use “3G” HSDPA and possibly WCDMA networks, which could conceivably provide between four and eighty times the data transferring speeds of current iPhones. Though these speed bumps are both carrier and infrastructure-dependent—you won’t be able to get these connections everywhere you travel within many countries—where they’re available, they could make for a much better web, e-mail, and streaming video experience. This feature has been more or less confirmed by everyone from the CEOs of carrier partners to Steve Jobs himself, and is a given to appear in the new device. It is unclear whether companies will charge extra for 3G iPhone data plans.
The rest of the iPhone’s possible new features remain shrouded in mystery. True GPS capability is a feature that has popped up in many speculative reports, and some evidence supporting its appearance has been found in beta versions of the iPhone’s upcoming 2.0 software. With the new software, Apple may also enhance its .Mac service to tie in more with the iPhone. Other user-requested features have not been supported by direct evidence. For instance, a front-mounted iSight video camera for video chats is possible, and what purport to be photographs of a new iPhone model show one or two new sensor-sized dots hidden near the device’s screen, but their purpose and legitimately are unclear. A chip called the S-GOLD3 or S-GOLD3H is very likely to be part of the new iPhone, and as discussed in this article, adds certain potential capabilities to the device. Based on what’s currently known and likely, additional feature possibilities rate as follows:
Beefed-up Camera – Possible; S-GOLD3H supports up to 5-Megapixel sensors
Video Chat – Possible; S-GOLD3H supports 30 frame per second full-screen telephony
Slide-Out Keyboard – Very Unlikely; Apple would likely only offer this in an enterprise-specific model
Removable Battery – Very Unlikely; Apple likes to make you replace the whole device
WiMax Wireless Networking- Extremely Unlikely; Apple doesn’t support this standard in any other device
802.11n and Bluetooth 2.1 – Possible; 50/50% as Apple already sources chips for other devices that include these features
Possibly the most-debated aspect of the next iPhone has been its form factor. A Taiwanese newspaper report suggested that the updated iPhone would be smaller in size, with a smaller, 2.8” screen to match. While this might represent the design of an iPhone mini, we don’t believe that these specifications would pertain to a true next-generation iPhone, and based on information we’ve heard from overseas, developers are betting that the new iPhone will look like this. Basically, the expectation is that the next iPhone will be similar to the original, with small cosmetic changes, including different curves and less use of metal in the casing. White and black glossy plastic versions are said to be a lock, with a red version also possible. These images may be elaborate fakes, but they track completely with what we have been hearing.
Carriers and Partners
We have moved the ever-increasing collection of iPhone data service providers to a new article, The Complete Guide to iPhone Service Providers. For its second-generation iPhone, Apple has opted to embrace a wider array of partners than it did the first time around, allowing certain countries’ telecom providers to compete against each other in offering service for the device. The list, already covering a huge swath of the Earth’s land, will surely continue to grow over time.
Most analyst research and speculation regarding the next iPhone suggests that the device will be released in at least the United States on or around the one-year anniversary of the original iPhone launch, June 29. Traditionally, Apple has placed US launches ahead of foreign ones when it believes that it will be difficult to gather a sufficient supply of a new device for a worldwide launch on the same date. Instead, we may see a launch on the existing carriers at that time, with rollouts continuing over the following months as more carrier partners and countries are added to the fold. It is also quite possible that Apple will target its initial rollout to the Americas and Europe, with Asia to follow later in 2008, but a nearly global rollout appears to be in the cards.
The pace and timing of these announcements points towards a June unveiling of the next iPhone, most likely during Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ keynote address during the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference, scheduled for 10:00a.m. PT on June 9. The annual event, not always known for consumer product announcements, has been touted by Apple as “A landmark event in more ways than one.”
This language could simply be referring to the first non-beta release of the iPhone SDK, accompanied by the announcement of a release date for iPhone software 2.0. However, it appears more likely that the “landmark” announcement is a reference to Apple’s desire to see the iPhone touch ground in previously unconquered territories all across the world. It is also possible that the event will be landmark in the sense that the iPhone will be firmly established as a larger platform, operating on multiple devices. In any case, we’re betting that many questions regarding the next iPhone will be answered in the second week of June, during the keynote speech.
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