iPhone to get cheaper, better voice control, better MobileMe -- but nano a no go?

The New York Times is weighing in on the previous rumors published by Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal saying Apple may working on less expensive device with better voice control and MobileMe, but not an iPhone nano.

Apple’s engineers are currently focused on finishing the next version of the iPhone, which is likely to be similar in size to the current iPhone 4, said one of the people. The person said Apple was not planning to introduce a smaller iPhone any time soon. Analysts expect the new iPhone to be ready this summer.

Another person who is in direct contact with Apple also said that the company would not make a smaller iPhone at this time, in part because a smaller device would not necessarily be much cheaper to manufacture and because it would be more difficult to operate.

More important, a phone with a smaller screen would force many developers to rewrite their apps, which Apple wants to avoid, the person said.

An Apple executive reportedly also said it wouldn't make sense to expand the iPhone family at this time, other than continuing the practice of dropping the price of the previous year's model (like the $49 iPhone 3GS still available on AT&T). And that N97 code name reportedly for the iPhone nano? Yeah, the NYT says that was for the Verizon iPhone.

The voice commands (possibly leveraging Siri artificial intelligence?) sound especially interesting as the article suggests they'll be robust enough to replace virtual keyboards for some uses. Likewise, a more "versatile", perhaps cheaper version of MobileMe could finally allow the iPhone to lose its iTunes tether.

Google's Android platform has system-wide voice control and access to ever-growing, predominantly free Google services, so Apple will likely need to address that with iPhone 5 and iOS 5.

Anyone sad iPhone nano may not be a done deal? And does better voice control and MobileMe lessen the sting?

[MobileMe]