Erik Ableson 7 minute read
May 26, 2008

iPhone 2 home stretch

We're getting into the home stretch waiting on the next generation of the iPhone, due (according to most sources) June 9, at the WWDC keynote.

I've noticed that this version is generating as much, if not more, real interest in my colleagues and clients. While the initial model garnered a lot of interest, it was not associated with immediate purchases, most people here in France were waiting on the 3G version. This time around however, I know at least 4 people that have recently sold their latest smart phone and are getting by with cheap phones waiting for the arrival of the iPhone v2.

Even though the version 2.0 software update will run fine on the existing generation, some iPhone users here have sold their old ones and plan on replacing them with the newer model. Most of the folks doing that are people that bought iPhones from the US and unlocked them. This time around they plan on getting the locally approved model with the associated data plan since they've learned that the always-on internet aspect of the iPhone is a key feature of the unit.

I'm currently holding onto my original iPhone since it currently meets my needs and the bulk of the new features are part of the software set, rather than the new hardware. That said, I'm waiting with bated breath for the exact specifications. If the new model has an integrated GPS antenna, then I think I'll be upgrading. But if the software update allows for the use of a standard bluetooth GPS unit on my old phone I'll be in a quandary. It would be really nice to have the photo geotagging automatically on without having to fire up an external GPS.

At the end of the day, an integrated GPS would the killer feature (for me, anyway). The iPhone would truly be the convergence device in your pocket with web, mail, video, music, telephony, games and not getting lost. Of course, that may be reserved for the next version, simply based on Apple's habit of giving you a lot but leaving you wanting more. Of course, the ideal stop-gap solution which would work on older and newer models would be a GPS device with an additional battery that attaches to the iPod connector on the bottom. The rest is just software, and I really hope Apple does their own GPS solution since the TomTom and Garmin UIs are functional but horribly ugly.

Some of the mockups that I've seen go by claim to show a new camera on the front face for video-calling. Personally, I doubt very much that there's enough standards based telephones with video conferencing capabilities built-in to make this much of a viable market. However, if there is such a camera, I'd think of it more as a confirmation that we'll be seeing a fully featured iChat client with video support. That makes more sense to me than a pure video-telephony solution (outside of Japan, of course). I just hope that it integrates the ability to switch cameras so you can go from a talk-to-me session to a show-me-what-you-see session.

The other missing piece for the camera is a flash. Unless they new camera has a really good sensor capable of working efficiently in low light situations, this will continue to be a problem. An alternative is something like the FastMac iV, but mine is still on backorder.

I'm also starting to see some noise around carrier subsidies which would be a huge deal in terms of market penetration. The current $400€ price point is pretty steep although understandable when put up against competing devices which often run twice that unsubsidized. But if carriers start pushing subsidies on the new model, they're going to have trouble keeping them in stock.

There's been some rumours about Apple integrating haptic feedback in the new model, but I haven't seen anything on the horizon that would really make this a useful feature for things like keyboard data entry. However, they might put it in just for the gaming market - I could see that being a cool feature.

I'm looking forward to seeing what the imagination of the Delicious Generation of developers has in store for us. I can think of a few desktop applications that would be well-served by an iPhone satellite application, and a few other tools that would live happily on an iPhone, like a universal remote control. I can't for the life of me understand why this market exists in it's currentform when you have smartphone software capable of doing all of this stuff already like the NoviiRemote or Salling Clicker.

I think it's a no brainer that the new models will offer 16 and 32Gb models. We already have an iPod Touch in 32Gb, and as soon as we start installing software on these machines, we'll start needing more space pretty quickly. That said, my 8Gb iPhone is rarely a problem, even when I keep a film or two for the days that I get stuck in the train.

The original screen has very little to improve upon and it's virtual invulnerability is a marvel. I've finally managed to put a little scratch on mine after demonstrating against various keys, screws, knives, but it took some serious pressure and nothing has come from it's time in various pockets and drops. But given the amount of power hungry components proposed in the new version, I think that it's very likely that the OLED rumour is well founded as they consume a lot less power and, being thinner, leave more room for a larger battery.

I suspect that we'll see some serious polemics on the relatively short life cycle of OLED screens which are generally rated at half that of an equivalent plasma screen. Then again that makes for 30,000 hours of viewing which works out to leaving your phone on continuously for about 3.4 years.

World-wide distribution?
Of course a big question that always accompanies this kind of announcement is "when can I buy it?" Most of the time, Apple is pretty good about keeping the release dates close to or at the announcement - at least for the US market. It remains to be seen if the world-wide rollout will be simultaneous or staggered by market. Unfortunately, the ImportGenius report only gives us data on mysterious containers being imported into the US. It seems that some were destined for Canada (finally!), but no confirmed data on European or Asian shipments yet.

One more thing...
And of course Apple's famous keynote punchline. Will we be getting any bonus rounds at this keynote? There are some sites talking about a MacBook/MacBook Pro refresh, but I doubt that will come along with the new iPhone since it would dilute the focus and this is the WWDC and not MacWorld after all. I fully expect the focus to be on just the iPhone and a lot of stuff regarding developing for the iPhone with a few iPhone software releases to go with the new Application Store.

The other recurring meme is the idea of an Apple PDA and/or tablet computer. For the moment, I think that this is wishful thinking more than anything else. If you want a PDA you've got the iPhone, or the iPod Touch if you don't want/need the telephony aspect. The internet tablet idea is always interesting, but I think that it's still a niche market, and Apple is all about consumers. Affluent consumers have internalized the need for a phone, a TV and a computer and that's where Apple's targeting the product development. I think we'll see an iPhone with a secondary fold-out OLED screen before we see an iPhone tablet.