With WWDC 2009 only two weeks away, the many rumors and leaks and informed guesses seem to have coalesced into a somewhat unified view of what we probably will -- and probably won't -- see if/when the next generation iPhone 2,1 is announced. Given the full version upgrade number (the original iPhone 2G is 1,1, the iPhone 3G is 1,3) we'd expect there to be more in the way of hardware changes than we saw last year with the addition of "just" 3G and GPS. Will those expectations be met? We have a pretty good handle on the iPhone 3.0 software, but what about the hardware?
More Than Likely
- More storage. Thanks to all the telco leaks over the weekend, either Apple has acquired the double-density NAND flash memory chips needed to move the iPhone to 32GB (and iPod touch to 64GB), or they're all just as convinced as we are that the high end iPhone will be twice as roomy this year.
- Faster processor(s). Not yet the miracle system-on-a-chip Apple will eventually produce based on PA Semi, ARM and PowerVR licenses, OpenCL, and all their recent expert hires, but a healthy 50% bump up from the current CPU. We might not see the multi-core GPU yet either, but more graphics firepower would make sense here as well.
- More RAM. Right now the iPhone is a lot like the genie in Aladdin. Unbelievable mobile potential... trapped in an itty-bitty RAM bottleneck. Dieter tells us that in the larger smartphone world, the iPhone's current 128MB of RAM gets looked at askance. It also causes Mobile Safari to crash and Apple to prevent background multitasking for anything but their own core apps. 256MB is increasingly the norm, and something we fully expect will make it into the next iPhone.
- Faster networking. TiPb called 802.11n Wi-Fi way back in October '08 and we'd now be surprised not to get it. Hopefully an improved cell radio will hook into faster 3.5/3.9G HSPA+ cell networks as well, and for the love of all things American, please let the new chip work better with AT&T's rabbit ear antennas. The rest of the world enjoys solid iPhone 3G connectivity, the USA should as well.
- Longer battery life. If one things remains constant, it's the entitled internet denizens demand twice as much of everything for half the price of anything before. So, in addition to all the new features packed into the next gen iPhone, Apple will no doubt have to figure out a way to make the battery last longer as well. Part of this will be smoke-and-mirrors, no doubt, the rest could be the result of leveraging the same new battery technology found in the 17" MacBook Pro allowing them to put more and smarter cells into the iPhone. If updated components help too (especially the outside chance of an OLED screen -- see below), so much the better.
- Better camera. Because it couldn't get any worse, right? There have been rumors of 3.2 and 5.0 megapixel cameras. We're betting 3.2 is what we see at WWDC, with 5.0 coming to an iPhone (or iPod) further down the line. Auto-focus will be included, if only to take better pictures and to provide a mechanical feature that's easier to break than the screen when we inevitably drop it trying to take that one great photo... (or video, but that's a software feature so we won't get into it here).
- Digital compass. Hey, it will make Google Street View demos infinitely cooler. Okay, and a magnetometer will also allow for faster, more precise positioning for things like Turn by Turn GPS when we finally get them in the App Store. And we're certain game developers will find spectacular ways of hooking into it as well.
- Price point. Same $199/$299 we currently enjoy. In the increasingly competitive smartphone space, it would be hard for even Apple to push the premium -- and with carriers subsidizing anyway, what would be the point? Lower prices are unlikely as well, though there's always hope AT&T and others might give users a break on data rates...
Less Than Likely
- Higher definition screen. Yeah, we called for an iPhone HD back in October '08 as well. Given the rise of up to 800x480 screens on other platforms, we (meaning me) figured Apple would move to match it giving us more pixels for everything from web browsing to gaming to watching 480p video. Since only a very few nebulous rumors have come out since then, and there's no sign of support for that resolution in the iPhone 3.0 SDK, we're just going to have to wait and recycle this prediction next year... (Though maybe HD-out will still happen.)
- OLED screen. Only a few rumors to back up OLED (organic light emitting diode) screens as well, which would look better and use less battery power and component space. They'd also be more expensive, which might explain why there have only been those few rumors. It could still happen, but odds make it look increasingly likely for next time rather than this time.
- Updated casing. While the next iPhone might change shape just enough to force everyone to once again buy new accessories (and get out the pitch-forks and torches), it doesn't look like a radical redesign is in the cards for the next iPhone casing either. No aluminum unibody. Not yet. And likely no glowing Apple logo either. Bummer. Outside chance of a soft-touch rather than glossy back plate, however.
Things could change as more and better rumors break -- and there's always a chance the iPhone will skip WWDC and show up at some special event later in the summer -- but that's what the landscape looks like right now.
Did we miss anything? And either way, if you were placing your bets, what do you think we'll see?