What Will the iPhone 3G's Hardware Features Be?! Countdown to WWDC Rumor Roundup

iPhone 3G Features and the Future Countdown to WWDC Rumor Roundup

Monday we asked you "What's the iPhone 3G Chip and When Will it Ship?". Tuesday it was "What is the iPhone 3G Going to Look Like?". Wednesday brought "What Surprises Will There Be in the iPhone 2.0 Software & Services?". Thursday questioned "What 3rd Party iPhone SDK Apps Will Be Available Launch Day?" Today we want to know what else the iPhone 3G will feature, both now and into the future?

GPS is the biggie (right after 3G!). What about a front-facing camera? VGA screen? Stereo Bluetooth? Wireless N? Full-sized querty keyboard? ... (Ha!) What do YOU think?

To give you some help, here's a HUGE roundup of all the iPhone SDK 3rd party apps rumors. Epic-style. Because let's face it, roughly 0.01 seconds after Steve Jobs pulled the first iPhone from his pocket back at Macworld 2007, and someone, somewhere, put aside their childlike sense of wonder long enough think: "Nice! What's the next gen going to be like?"

Complementary, contradictory, obvious, confusing, all but confirmed or from left field via outer space, the rumors have flooded the internet ever since. It's become almost impossible to keep track of them all.

Three days from today Steve Jobs takes Moscone Center stage for the sold-out WWDC keynote, and according to everyone and their newsfeed, announces the iPhone 3G. In eager anticipation, every day this week, TiPb wil be asking you to tell us what you think the next generation iPhone will be, from 3G to GPS, release dates to price points, colors to casings, 2.0 software to .Mac .Me services, and this weekend we'll wrap it all up with a look into the WWDC/iPhone 3G Crystal Ball, and a roundup of the very best of YOUR predictions.

So come on, let's get in on!

WWDC -3 and Counting: Hardware Features

As we mentioned before for purely cosmetic reasons, the first generation iPhone boasts a 3.5″ 320×480 display at 163dpi, a rear-facing 2.0 megapixel camera, 3.5mm recessed headphone minijack, 30-pin dock connector, speakers at the top and base, microphone at the base, accelerometer, light sensor, proximity sensor, top-mounted SIM slot, on/off button, mute switch, volume button, and home button. It's also packing internals like quad-band GSM (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz), Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), EDGE data, and Bluetooth 2.0+EDR.

But that's all soooo 2007 now, isn't it? What will Apple bring to the table for 2008? How will they not only surpass their own previous efforts, but tackle the plethora of feature-spouting iPhone-like devices their competition has been releasing as of late?

Let’s start at the beginning and work our way forward:

March 4, 2008: RBC Capital analyst Mike Abramsky predicted an iPhone 3G with higher def (HD?) video, voice capture, streaming HD video, and real-time GPS.

March 25, 2008: Digg founder Kevin Rose used his popular Diggnation internet video show to claim that the iPhone 3G would sport 2 cameras: one on back like the current version, and another on the front expressly for iChat video conferencing. Rose, however, had been spectacularly wrong with his predictions about the first generation iPhone...

Kevin Rose Diggnation iPhone 3G Predictions

March 27, 2008: Kevin Rose was back, back again, this time on Twitter where he claimed a source close to Apple told him the iPhone 3G would be released in June with GPS. Although not at the time, this one looked more and more credible as WWDC approached...

March 31, 2008: While claiming they would'a had'a need'a time machine to have emulated the iPhone's design, RIM's latest release, the Blackberry 9000 Bold, did raise the bar on some specs. According to Crackberry.com, who scored the first pre-release hands-on, it included UMTS: 2100 / 1900 / 850MHz, GSM: 1900 / 1800 / 900 / 850 MHz, GPRS, EDGE and HDSPA networks, GPS, and Bluetooth Stereo Audio.

For a company that makes its dough on email, offering BT stereo before media giant Apple was clearly a backatcha-for-ActiveSync challenge. And while Steve Jobs is notorious for not offering technology that doesn't (yet?) meet his perfectionistic standards, will the iPhone be able to avoid A2DP any longer?

April 2, 2008: With an eventual -- and unbelievable -- $100,000,000 in advertising behind it, Sprint aimed (both in terms of design and market!) Samsung's Instinct squarely at the iPhone, with some challenging specs like EVDO Rev A speed, GPS, Stereo Bluetooth, and mobile TV.

iPhone 3G: Sprint to spend $100,000,000 on iClone?

April 8, 2008: In one of the most obvious iPhone derived competitive offerings to date, Nokia promised the world the "Tube". While feature specs were not discussed, Nokia already shipped smartphones like the N95 with whopping big 5.0 megapixel Carl Zeiss-lensed cameras, the ability to shoot near DVD-quality video, and vblogger-pleasing compatibility with mobile streaming video capture services.

Can Apple, which owns everything from Final Cut and Aperture to iMovie and iPhoto, afford to fall behind in the mobile production space? And if not, how far will they be willing to bump their own 2.0mp, non-video capturing camera?

April 10, 2008: iPhoneBuzz reported that they found strings in the iPhone 2.0 beta that revealed support for A2DP stereo Bluetooth, Bluetooth remote control, GPS (though not whether it was internal or via Bluetooth to dongle), and something to do with printers. If true, it was a gold mine of discoveries.

iPhone 2.0

April 25, 2008: Engadget claimed a source with hands-on info that the iPhone 3G would include GPS, and a flush headset jack.

May 7, 2008: The iPhone turned out to be the most popular camera phone on Flickr, despite its relatively poor 2.0 megapixel implementation. Imagine what it could do with a lens bump and a better software set?

May 9, 2008: In what might have been one of the most feature-packed competitors to square off against the iPhone, HTC announced their Touch Diamond, which according to WMExperts came spec'd out with an ultra-sharp 2.8", 640x480 VGA screen, tri-band (aka non-US friendly) HSPA 3G data, A-GPS, a 3.2 megapixel camera, and FM radio.

The iPod Nano already had a 202dpi screen, but would Apple go that high-end with the iPhone 3G?

May 14, 2008: Swisscome announced they would be selling the iPhone in Switzerland, and rumor had it it would feature video iChat, mobile TV, and GPS.

May 22, 2008: Gizmodo revealed that Apple had job postings up for both a camera engineer:

[W]ith responsibilities for evaluation, qualification, implementation and tuning of camera subsystems in iPhone products.

And an RF engineer:

Familiar with RF fundamentals and RF test equipments (spectrum analyzer, network analyzer, signal generator), hands on for wireless system validation automation. Familiar with PC and network architecture. [...] Design and qualification expertise with IEEE 802.11 [...] Knowledge about Bluetooth, 3G, UWB, WiMAX, GPS, Mobile TV and similar wireless technologies and/or experience with wireless module integration into PC system or consumer products is a strong plus. The system integration issues include: radio coexistence, platform noise, module and system power consumption.

Et tu, WiMAX?

At the same time, Apple Insider broke word on a "private" firmware update for "select developers" that included Geo-Tagging software, which often depends on GPS to add location data to photographs.

iPhone 2.0: Geo Tagging

May 28, 2008: While still in beta, Google demonstrated their much-anticipated Android OS on an HTC Dream. iPhone inspired, Google advances the multi-touch UI and sensor interactions in many ways Apple will have to not only match, but surpass. And as everyone knows (and Microsoft has often used to their advantage), its almost impossible to market a shipping product against a vaporous competitor.

May 30, 2008: Apple Insider revealed a patent filing that could allow an iPhone with GPS and an accelerometer to predict when signal loss would occur and alert both the user, and anyone the user was communicating with at the time, with distance and speed specific cues.

In a separate filing, Apple detailed how improved Bluetooth functionality could allow the iPhone to help find other BT enabled devices, or even everyday BT tagged items such as your keys. (Not that it's unwanted, but how about some BT stereo and peripheral -- keyboard -- support?)

iPhone 2.0: Spidey Sense to Tingle?

June 1, 2008: Battle of the biggie blogs as Om Malik of GigaOm said GPS was a go:

[T]here is one thing that’s for sure: The new iPhone has Global Positioning System (GPS) built into it, thanks to legal requirements put in place by the FCC.

And Brian Lam of Gizmodo responded with a thanks but...:

No thanks. Don’t need it. I’m fine with the current location technology. It works for walking and that’s all I need it for.

iPhone GPS: GigaOm vs. Gizmodo

June 3, 2008: Samsung's SGH-i900 is detailed by WMExperts. Modeled after the iPhone but sporting an FM Radio. While very last century, it is a feature last centurions still request...

Your Turn!

So there you go, now it's your turn. Tell us what features you think the iPhone 3G will pack. FM Radio? HD Video? Better Bluetooth support? Espresso brewer?!

And after you're done telling us, don't forget to head over to our iPhone Blog's super Wait-a-Thon spectacular where you could win an iPhone 3G of your very own, whatever it looks like, on the very day it's released!

Go back and read Part 1: What's the iPhone's 3G Chip and When Will it Ship?
Go back and read Part 2: What’s the iPhone 3G Going to Look Like?
Go back and read Part 3: What Surprises Will Be in iPhone 2.0 Software & Services?
Go back and read Part 4: What 3rd Party iPhone SDK Apps Will Be Available Launch Day?

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

What Will the iPhone 3G's Hardware Features Be?! Countdown to WWDC Rumor Roundup

12 Comments

GPS seems doable. for one, it only needs to run when you are a) actively navigating somewhere, or b) when an application needs it. SIRFstar III GPS receivers seem to get a good signal within a few seconds, which is about how long it takes the Google Maps location thinger to triangulate you with a fast network connection. I presume that if you are in a car with your iphone running a nav program, you'd want it plugged into AC power. Otherwise, you might just want "use my current location", so it could get the current location and shut back off.
3G? Duh.
Bluetooth 2.0? Maybe. A2DP seems kind of necessary if they want to be cutting-edge, but maybe it eats battery or something. As it is, with the current 2G iphone you can't talk on a third-party bluetooth headset while using wifi; you can only use the apple bt headset.
Better camera? I don't care about MP. How about better image quality? My at&t 8525 had a 1.3mp camera that was far worse than a digital cam from 6 years ago.
Front camera? AT&T might be ready to try video calling... it's certainly possible in many european countries, and the 3G iphone isn't just for the US.

3G - Yes
GPS - Yes
A2DP - Yes
Better than 2 megapixel camera - Yes, plus video capability (I think this was more a software limit than a hardware one anyway). My guess is that it's going to be 4+ megapixels. No flash though.
New, better resolution screen up to 720P resolutions - Yes
Front facing camera - Not yet.
Upgrades to current sensors (accelerometer, etc) - Yes
More stuff that we haven't seen or heard of from the 'experts' - Yes

I have never been this siked about a phone.
I say yes on the Front facing camera for Video Calling and iChat.

3G - of course
GPS - certainly (though apple has proven to us that it doesn't need to offer cutting edge technology to dominate the market - I was so disappointed when the 1st gen iphone wasn't 3G)
A2DP - please, pretty please. though it's more of a software change than hardware.

2 megapixel camera - not necessary. We all know cameras are not all about the pixel count. It's been proven that a single (1 count 'em, 1) pixel camera can produce amazing pictures. Just enhance the software please.

Higher resolution - meh, not really necessary. Remember the first gen iphone had a weird aspect ratio.
Front facing camera - nah. Battery is critial as is. If apple offers up video chat, which most likely needs 3G data, battery will drain faster than gas in a Hummer.
802.11n - hey can't hurt to dream.

One thing about the video chat stuff... doesn't AT&T have some new quasi-video chat thing? I recall it lets you film things and send it to your friend, immediately, possibly while still talking to them. I don't think it's bidirectional, and I think it requires you to aim the regular phone camera at something. And only works currently with a couple phones.
Ahh, Video Share. If they can do that, why not add a front-facing camera so you can share yourself while watching your friend share themselves?
That sounds dirty.

These are all the things I think will be in the 3G iPhone.
3G - its obvious with the addition of countries to get the phone, most have 3G has standard.
GPS - will be included as well, its 1 of the major hardware upgrade.
Camera - the new phone will have more megapixel and zoom but no flash.
Hard drive - capacity will double from current model.

There are only 2 things I can say with confidence will be on the new iPhone:
1) 3g
2) GPS
Outside of that, I would say the next most likely upgrades would be the following:
1) higher resolution screen
2) improved camera (maybe more megapixels, maybe better lens)
3) increased bluetooth support
4) bigger hard drive
Things that would be awesome additions but don't seem likely:
1) front mounted camera

  1. 3G
  2. GPS
  3. better camera all they have to do is bump up the mega pixels and everyone will think its better. I'm guessing it will be a 3mp
  4. 32 GB
  5. Double the ram that will help with running more than one program as well as hopefully keep safari more stable.

As for front facing camera I dont think it will make it to this version. They have to have something cool for the next gen iPhone dont they?

Mobile TV:
AT&T has just released last month his Mobile TV service with LG Vu and Samsung Access phones. It is the using MediaFlo technology (part of Qualcomm). Verizon Wireless has also been using the same technology for 1 year.
In Europe they don't use MediaFlo, but DVB-H. So iPhone would have to support both Mobile TV technologies for AT&T and European markets.
I wish the iPhone 3G would have Mobile TV (to watch France winning the Euro 2008 on ESPN Mobile), but I doubt it will be there. Maybe next year? Hopefully.

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