Truth, rumors, and predictions for the next iPhone

It’s very likely that an iPhone update is imminent. But while nearly everyone has agreed on that, nobody knows anything definite about the specifics: when will the update happen, and what will it change?

What we know

  • Apple’s WWDC conference begins on June 9. The new iPhone will most likely be unveiled that day during Steve Jobs’ keynote.
  • AT&T is prohibiting retail-store employees from taking vacations between June 15 and July 12, claiming that they’re expecting a “heavy selling period”. They implemented a similar policy last year for the iPhone launch.
  • AT&T executives have said numerous times that all of their smartphones will support 3G networking soon.
  • The Apple Stores have been out of stock of the iPhone, and the website has shown it as “Currently Unavailable”, for a few weeks.
  • The most recent developer-beta iPhone firmware contains a 3G toggle in Settings.
  • AT&T’s website briefly listed an “iPhone Black” as an option in a support form recently. They claimed that it was a mistake and a placeholder for testing, not a real product name.

And that’s about it. Everything else is speculation. Here’s mine:

Price and capacity

The current iPhone:

  • $399 for 8 GB
  • $499 for 16 GB

Apple usually doesn’t introduce new price points for the same products. Updates usually just replace the old products at the same price points. I expect to see capacity doubling:

  • $399 for 16 GB
  • $499 for 32 GB

It’s possible that they’ll also introduce a lower-priced model to increase sales volume. After all, Apple’s making approximately $20/month from AT&T per subscriber in the U.S. alone. They don’t need to make large profits on the hardware. If they chose to do this, it would most likely be:

  • $299 for 8 GB

I do not expect that the new iPhone models will differ in any other ways from each other — only capacity. I don’t think, for example, that they would only give a 3G radio to the largest-capacity model.

The new capacities and pricing would probably force a change in the iPod Touch lineup. I expect to see the same price points and doubled capacities in the iPod Touch lineup as well. (I don’t think we’d see a $199 8 GB model.)


The iPhone is 45% thicker than the iPod Touch, but they share much of the same hardware. The additional thickness in the iPhone is probably to accommodate the cellular radio and a larger battery.

3G radios are larger and consume more battery power. Even if Apple finds a way to make the other components smaller, they’ll probably need even more room for the battery now — or they’ll have to disable 3G by default (likely). And they still need to find somewhere to put the 3G radio.

I don’t think Apple can make the iPhone significantly thinner yet, and they almost certainly won’t make it thicker, so I predict that it will stay the same size. (Depending on how much internal volume is consumed by the battery, the weight might change slightly, but we won’t notice.)

I also predict no changes in the physical buttons.

Hardware features

  • GPS: No. Not enough room, too much power consumption, not enough demand.
  • Better camera: No. It would benefit most from an autofocus lens, but tiny ones suitable for phones are still very rare and young. And they’re not tiny enough to fit in the iPhone yet.
  • Video camera: Yes. The current camera can almost capture video — it wouldn’t take much to add this capability.
  • Video chat: No. I don’t see them moving the camera to the front or adding a second one for pragmatic, size, and cost reasons, so this can’t be gracefully done.
  • Faster CPU and more RAM: Yes. Third-party applications and overall performance will greatly benefit from this. But these won’t be specifically mentioned, except maybe in blanket statements like “It’s faster.”
  • Battery life: Slight improvement, but nothing huge — less than a 100% improvement.

Software features

This will be the focus of the event. With the 2.0 software and the API release, iPhone users will be smothered in new software capabilities from Apple and third-party applications.

We will not see IM or MMS support from Apple.

Some of the enterprise-friendly features would make a lot more sense if .Mac got an update to support them: over-the-air calendar and contact sychronization, in particular. I expect to see this (most likely), or a partnership with Google or Yahoo to provide it (unlikely). I can’t see Apple only offering these with Microsoft Exchange support — why would they offer it to Microsoft server customers and not their own?

The IMAP spec contains rarely-implemented support for synchronized calendar events and contacts. Apple could use the .Mac IMAP servers to deliver calendar/contact sync by adding appropriate integration between Mail, iCal, and Address Book.

I predict that Apple will also add one more feature to .Mac that I haven’t yet thought of, and the combined new feature-set will be convincing enough that I’ll finally buy a .Mac subscription.

Disagree? Email me.