Just as it has done for the past three years, a new iPhone should play a major role at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference next week. And when CEO Steve Jobs takes the stage on Monday to give his keynote address, I'll be there, along with CNET reporter Erica Ogg, to bring you all the details.
Until that time, I'm happy to speculate on what the new iPhone will offer. Although this year has been a little different because of a well-publicized leak of an iPhone prototype in April, few details about new devices emerge form Apple's labs before a formal unveiling. But that won't stop us from putting together the various clues to make our own guesses.
What we won't see 4G or not 4G? First off, an important clarification is in order. Though some have called the new handset the "iPhone 4G"--and we refer to it as such in informal conversations around the CNET office--we do not expect it to run on a 4G network. It will be the fourth-generation iPhone model, but because it should operate solely on AT&T's network (more on that later), its fastest data speeds will continue to be 3G. AT&T will begin testing its 4G LTE network later this year, but commercial deployment won't begin until 2011 at least. So check back then for a faster iPhone.
Verizon: I also have to repeat what we've said already. There will not be a Verizon iPhone this year. And if you don't believe us, just consider that Verizon spokesman John Johnson told Beet.TV on Wednesday that the carrier has no plans to carry the phone in the "immediate future."
Yes, it's a carefully worded statement, which means that it's very possible that we'll see a Verizon iPhone at some point in the future. Yet, when that will happen--if happens at all--is unclear. This fall has been suggested as a time frame, but I think that's unlikely. I predict that Apple will wait until Verizon rolls out its own 4G LTE network, which should begin later this year. There's also the matter that AT&T's exclusivity contract won't end until 2012, but that could change at any time.
Design Pictures of the new iPhone have been all over the blogsphere since Gizmodo paid $5,000 for a prototype of the new iPhone that an Apple engineer allegedly lost.
From what we can tell from the pictures, the device will be marginally heavier with a flat back, sharper corners, and an aluminum border around the edge. Indeed, that's a break from the iPhone 3G and 3GS, which have a curved back and wobble slightly when resting on a table.
I'll save my opinions until I see the actual handset and get it in my hands, but a boxier shape would put it more in line with the iPad and some Google Android devices, such as the HTC Incredible. According to Gizmodo, the new iPhone also should have a higher resolution display, a flash and a larger lens for the main camera, split volume buttons (a new camera shutter perhaps?), a micro-SIM card slot (like the iPad), and a possible noise cancellation microphone.
We'll reportedly see a front-facing video camera, as well, with support for iChat video calling. Mobile video calling has been around for several years, but the bandwidth-hogging service has never caught on with consumers because its expensive and unreliable. Remember that AT&T offers its Video Share application on a limited number of phones, but the service isn't available everywhere, and the carrier hasn't promoted it aggressively.
Apple, however, has a knack for repackaging existing technologies and reaping broad consumer interest. And even though a video-calling service would dump even more data on AT&T's strained network, it would complement the expected high-definition video features (see below). But then again, the new camera could just be for self-portraits. … Read more