3g iPhone Inevitable

It’s now inevitable that a new iPhone is on its way.  After O2 and Carphone Warehouse announced that they had stopped selling the current iPhone, the online Apple Store has now also sold out.  While no one from Apple is saying anything, this leads us to the inevitable conclusion, iPhone 2 is on the way.

iPhone is sold out in both available capacities.

So What’s Going On?

One of two possibilities.  Either Apple greatly underestimated the demand for iPhone and has run out of stock – OR – it’s trying to avoid a consumer backlash by preventing people from buying the device shortly before a new version comes out.  Let’s look at the evidence.

Apple may very well have underestimated demand for iPhone.  I know that the recent price cut has caused a mini surge in demand, and seeing as the cut wasn’t Apple initiated, it’s unlikely they would have planned for this late-life pickup in demand.  Of course, this falls largely into Apple’s hands considering that they would want the channels clear in preparation for the new product.  This is common practice and is necessary for effective supply chain management.  The downside is that it’s now practically impossible to pick up an iPhone.  With WWDC coming up, and the inevitable focus on iPhone Apps, this may stifle development at this crucial time.  There are ways around this, such as picking up an iPod Touch, or using the emulator included in the development kit, but it’s not the same and no serious developer would release an app without first testing it on the actual equipment on which it will run.

The other possibility is that Apple is actively preventing people from buying the current iPhone.  This may be to clear the channel, as I touched on above, or it may be to avoid a consumer backlash.  While this isn’t something Apple typically gets involved in (you can usually buy something right up to the morning an update is announced, with no clue to the fact a replacement is on its way), the phone market is different.  What Apple is no doubt acutely aware of is that fact that you have to sign up to a contract to get an iPhone.  This isn’t like a computer or an iPod that you can simply replace, it’s not that simple.  Whether this factors in to Apple’s approach or not remains to be seen.  But I think it’s obvious that there will be a far greater backlash from recent iPhone buyers that there would be for a similar update to the iPod or Mac lines.

So What Now?

Usually with Apple, you really don’t know what’s going to happen next.  Even the iPhone itself, while widely rumoured, was never certain until it was actually announced.  The really interesting part will be the timing of the announcement.  All the smart money seems to be on July, possibly being announced at WWDC and then released a few weeks later.  That’s what I’d bet on.  Those of you will good memories will be wondering about the comment Steve Jobs made at the original iPhone launch about the risk of it getting exposed by the American Authorities.  The suggestion was that Apple announced it early in order to prevent any leaks getting out that they couldn’t control.  It’s an interesting theory, but not one I really buy.  For instance, Apple released the Time Capsule wireless router and storage device, which would have to go through the same approval process, without any such leaks.

So how’s this.  Steve to announce the new iPhone at the WWDC keynote and make it available for purchase around the end of June.

What Should I expect?

This is an interesting questions, with lots of conflicting and confusing rumours being thrown about.  All we can really do is make some best guesses.  We pretty much know what the chip powering the new iPhone will be, the Infineon PMB8878, and we can be fairly certain the current form factor and interface will be used.

The new chip supports HSDPA (3g) and higher resolution cameras, expect both to be present.  It also supports GPS, which has seen some fairly strong rumours recently (possibly because the chip has been discovered, and supports it) but I’d file that feature in the “unlikely” pile.  My reasoning is simple, Steve Jobs bemoaned the poor battery life of 3g handsets around the original iPhone launch, GPS is the fastest way to drain a mobile battery.  The new chip also supports faster memory card access, which is even more unlikely that GPS.

I’m certain that the form factor and interface will remain from the current version.  Why would apple bother developing a multi-touch SDK, and getting developers to create touch apps, if they were dropping the interface?  It’s not going to happen.  I can’t see the size changing significantly, it might be slightly thinner or thicker (I’ll go with thicker), but the size of the screen and the other components that need to be fitted on the front the of device neccessitate a size similar to the current iPhone.  It’s not necessarily technology holding them back, more practicallity.

Price-wise, don’t expect anything too dramatic.  Bumped specs, including storage, at a similar price seems to be Apple’s game across all their product lines.  There may be a slight reduction, but not enough for them to open up the entire market.  Especially one like the UK where people expect, and demand, free handsets.

So…

I thought a nice way to summarise would be to list some predictions about the next iPhone.  They are based on a combination of wishfull thinking, logic and guess work.  So here goes:-

  • Same size (or very close), same form-factor
  • Slightly reduced price, say £299 for the top spec version
  • No GPS but improved location detection in Google Maps
  • 5 Megapixel camera, no autofocus and no flash, video recording will be added
  • HSDPA (3g)
  • MMS (finally)
  • A2DP support
  • Will ship with at least one game from the new iPhone App Store
  • Flash Support (wishful thinking I fear)
  • Fashion options (different colours, more customisation)
  • Announced at WWDC, available mid to late June simultaneously in all territories

So, what do you think?