When Apple released the iPhone in 2007 its smart phone competitors – Microsoft, Nokia, RIM and Palm – primarily were focused on business users. Apple’s product was marketed at consumers who wanted smart phone functionality wrapped in Apple’s renowned user interface and ease of use. This combination has been a phenomenal success over the last 2 and 1/2 years, but now has spawned imitators like Google’s Android platform and Palm’s webOS. But Apple is not resting on its laurels. Here’s what you should expect from the 4th version of the iPhone.
Apple’s 2008 purchase of PA Semi and continuing investment in Imagination Technologies should bear fruit this year in a significantly faster iPhone. Apple bought PA Semi to make custom ARM-based processors for the iPhone and iPod. Inclusion of Imagination’s PowerVR SGX545 chip would boost the iPhone’s graphic capabilities and make the iPhone OS platform that much more attractive as a gaming platform.
Motorola Droid’s 3.7” 480-by-854-pixel screen best’s the iPhone’s 3.5” 480-by-320 display, to say nothing of the Zune’s gorgeous OLED screen. A more vibrant, higher density screen seems likely, possibly OLED if component prices drop enough. The iPhone’s camera gets an upgrade to 5MB, with an LED camera flash to improve photo and video clarity taken in low-light conditions, such as indoors or at night. Apple will continue to double the maximum memory in each iPhone iteration, using Toshiba’s recently announced 64GB embedded NAND flash chip. A significant increase in battery life would be a (welcome) surprise, as would turning on the 802.11n wireless capability already built into current iPhones. Maybe this will be the year we finally see wireless syncing over a local network.
Apple hasn’t updated the iPhone OS in quite a while, reportedly to keep features specific to the upcoming Tablet secret. Apple’s rumored release of the iPhone OS 4 SDK at the Tablet special event on January 27th would give us a peak at what’s coming to your next iPhone. The iPhone’s real advantage lies with its advanced operating system and applications, and their tight integration with the iPhone hardware.
Faster processers should allow for increased multi-tasking. It seems almost certain Apple will release a turn-by-turn navigation and FM radio app. There is also a backlog of minor but annoying bugs that I hope gets fixed – like not being able to sync To Do items in Calendar app and not being able to add existing contacts to groups in Address app.
Whither AT&T, Enter Verizon?
Reports indicate that AT&T's exclusivity agreement with Apple for the iPhone in the U.S. will expire this June, opening the possibility of an iPhone compatible with Verizon’s CMDA network. It appears doubtful that a multi-mode chip that works on multiple networks will be available in Apples’ timeframe. Instead, Apple will use a 3G EV-DO ship from Qualcomm for a CDMA-based iPhone.
It would be nice if AT&T could deliver in 2010 features promised last year, like iPhone tethering and wider rollout of its 3G Microcell product.
My best guess is that the phone will be released during WWDC (World Wide Developer's Conference) which will looks to take place June 28 through July 2, 2010.