iPhone owners craving for faster performance from the spiffy device might want to prepare for a trade-in next year.
Speaking Wednesday at the Churchill Club in Santa Clara, Calif., version of the iPhone is in the works. Asked when the units will be available, Stephenson at first wondered aloud whether his Apple counterpart, Steve Jobs, had announced the 3G plan.
Then, Stephenson said, simply, "You'll have it next year."
The iPhone currently operates on the slower EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for Global System for Mobile communications Evolution) network technology, a fact that is often cited as a "con" in the seemingly infinite number of "pro and con" iPhone reviews published since the device was launched in late June.
Early on, Jobs said the US$399 units were purposely designed for the EDGE network because Apple found that making them 3G caused battery life to diminish too much.
Jobs addressed the notion of a 3G iPhone at a conference earlier this year, NPD analyst Ross Rubin told MacNewsWorld. "He said it was something they looked at, but battery life was not satisfactory for them. It follows [that] it is something they continue to work on."
A No Hotspot Hot Shot
The lack of 3G is somewhat alleviated by the iPhone's ability to connect to the Internet via available WiFi networks. Many users grumble that, when no WiFi connectivity is available, the lack of 3G makes for frustratingly slow data transfers.
Moving to 3G "makes a lot of sense for a device that has a very strong Web browser," said Rubin. AT&T, the only wireless carrier authorized to sell and work with the iPhone, "certainly has a vested interest" in seeing the devices upgraded, he noted.
"It would complement some of the technologies that are already on the iPhone," said Rubin.
Slip of the Tongue?
Stephenson's comments seemed to be a bit off-the-cuff and they came during an informal and wide-ranging question-and-answer session. "We often see executives allude to developments," added Rubin. "Ultimately, it's Apple that has to ship the device."
Apple has declined to comment about Stephenson's prediction. However, a decision by Apple to remain quiet about the issue would fit the company's standard operating procedure, Rubin said.
"You never know what contractual agreements AT&T may have with Apple," commented the analyst. "But clearly Apple has a long history of not pre-announcing products. So, if it's coming next year, we may hear about it at MacWorld because, as happened last year, Steve Jobs announced the iPhone there but the phone wasn't delivered until the end of June."
Night and Day
There's no doubt that a 3G version of the iPhone would leave the current model in the dust for some data-intensive, non-WiFi operations. "It's like going from dial-up to a broadband connection," said Rubin.
The iPhone is ideally suited to the faster connectivity, he said. "If that support is there, we may see more focus on over-the-air transactions, more streaming media and perhaps downloads of TV shows -- which would be complementary to the iPhone's large screen -- and many other kinds of services."