iPhone 3G Rumor Roundup

What's going to power the next generation iPhone 3G? Infineon again? Insider Intel? A curveball from PA Semi? And more importantly -- when are we getting our hands on one?! What do YOU think?

To give you some help, here's a HUGE roundup of all the iPhone 3G chipset and ship date 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. But we're going to try!

One week 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 rounding up a different set of next generation rumors, 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 Balland a roundup of the very best of YOUR predictions.

So come on, let’s get in on!

[Digg it!]

WWDC -7 and Counting: Of Baseband Chips and Release Date Trips

Categorically unrelated much? Here's the thing: the rumors swirling around the iPhone's 3G chipset and the iPhone 3G's release date, much like how the terms iPhone and 3G have become inextricably linked as the de facto name for the next generation Apple handset, always seem to show up together. So that's how we're going to tackle them.

Now, we don't really know anything for certain. Not that Jobs is going to be announcing the iPhone 3G. Not that it's going to be officially called the iPhone 3G. Or even that it's even going to be 3G (though at this point it really has to be!). All we have is rumors. Tons of them. More of them than perhaps for any event in Apple's history, and in the tech industry, that's saying a lot. Enough rumors to stun a blogsphere.

The current iPhone operates on the GSM networks 2.5/2.75 G (Generation) technology known as EDGE, which provides for data speeds roughly analogous to the dial-up internet connections of yore. (We joke only slightly). 3G GSM cell networking uses the more broadband-like HSPA, and while I mentioned before that you can never say certain, it's pretty much certain the next generation iPhone will support 3G. But which 3G chipset will it use exactly, and when will this iPhone 3G be released?

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

September 18, 2007: At the "Mum's No Longer the Word" iPhone launch in the UK, Steve Jobs gave Apple's first public comment on 3G and the iPhone:

I think we’ll see that hopefully late next year.

Boom. The 3G rumor mill was on!

September 20, 2007: Intel demonstrated a next generation MID (Mobile Internet Device) proof-of-concept that resembled what can only be termed an iPhone "Stretch" based on their then 45nm Silverthorne/Moorestown, now called Atom architecture, which could integrate functionality like 3G. The interwebs lit up, and Intel Inside looked like a possibility for iPhone 3G.

Intel\'s Sliverthorne/Moorestown/Atom based Mobile Internet Device

Nov 29, 2007: Once again proving they could make a leaky bucket seem airtight, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson confirmed Jobs "guesstimate" of an iPhone 3G in 2008, though without the "late" part:

You'll have it next year.

February 28, 2008: Analysts and suppliers brought word from Asia that first generation iPhone 2.5 G baseband supplier Infineon was ramping down production of their S-Gold-2 chips in anticipation of a switch to 3G by mid-year.

That made it a two chipset rumor race, though this one seemed more credible than Intel's from the get go.

March 6, 2008: This was SDK day. The big one. Steve Jobs and Co. officially announced iPhone 2.0, with immediate beta, and general release in "late June", which in Apple parlance would roughly translate to June 30, 11:59 pm. But does 2.0 mean new hardware? Does it mean 3G?

iPhone SDK Roadmap

March 13, 2008: Skipping right over the 2nd generation iPhone to the 3rd, the Inquirer went back to the Intel MID, predicting Apple would jump from ARM as they had PowerPC, and lent some more weight to the chip-now-known-as-Atom getting into the iPhone (at some point).

March 14, 2008: Pouring fuel on the fire of mid-year release rumors, Apple officially lit the June match by announcing their annual World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) would run from June 9 to 13, and prominently featuring the iPhone as the second bridge/track, next to the traditional Mac focus.

WWDC began to get more and more interesting...

March 25, 2008: Digg founder Kevin Rose used his massively popular Diggnation Podcast to say the 3G HSPA iPhone would arrive in a few months. Rose, of course, had been wrong in his predictions for the first iPhone...

March 26, 2008: More analysts, more Asia, led to reports that Apple may have already placed orders for up to 10 million iPhone 3G handsets from manufacturers. That meant things were moving quickly, and an introduction could be sooner rather than later.

March 29, 2008: And yet more! This time the rumors said 10 million iPhone 3G's from longtime Apple supplier Hon Hai, some perhaps as early as May (probably test units for carriers), and release in June. Word also came that the New York Apple Store was sold out of current gen iPhones.

April 1, 2008: "Foolish" timing not withstanding, Apple Stores suffered the first in what became a series of current generation iPhone shortages, leading to increased order times and then reports of complete sell-outs.

April 3, 2008: Gizmodo "did lunch" with AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega, and when pressed about the release of the iPhone 3G, de la Vega leaked:

Let me repeat what I said: I think that you’re going to see our integrated devices be 3G devices in the not-too-distant future, and I mean months. That should be clear enough.

AT&T Mouth of Sauron Speaks!

April 6, 2008: Apple's go-to review guy, none other than Uncle Walt Mossberg, off-handedly quipped that the iPhone 3G would be released in less than 60 days (by June 6). Mossberg later retracted the quip, but the timeline, so close to WWDC's keynote on June 9, seemed a little too convenient...

April 9, 2008: Jailbreaking wizards ZiPhone deep dove the iPhone 2.0 Beta 3 firmware and came up with strings referencing SGOLD3, which was immediately linked to Infineon's S-Gold-3 chips, one of which supported 3G. Not conclusive, but inching closer...

April 10, 2008: TG Daily reported that the iPhone 3G would indeed debut at WWDC, and went so far as to offer price points at $399 for 8GB, $499 for 16GB, and potentially $599 for a huge 32GB model.

April 16, 2008: Deeply discounted iPhones began to appear in the UK via O2, mirroring discounts available from from T-Mobile in Germany, and followed by Orange in France as well. Euro-liquidation in preparation for the 3G onslaught?

April 18, 2008: Word came from Asia that Infineon would provide the 65nm 3G chipset for the next generation, to be manufactured by UMC. Seemed like a done deal, but then...

April 23, 2008: The interwebs woke to the shocking news that Apple had purchased Palo Alto Semiconductor (PA Semi) for $287 million. PA Semi, from the guys who spun us the DEC Alpha and StrongARM, focused on super efficient mobile chips, suddenly creating a potential 3G love triangle for the iPhone, and making Infineon less of a done deal than it had appeared. Or did it? 3G may never have been, or may never ever be, part of the PA Semi package, and other ideas rapidly surfaced for their potential in the iPhone, primarily as proprietary, special-purpose chips.

April 28, 2008: More for the heap, as Engadget reported that Foxxcon (aka Hon Hai), manufacturer of the first generation iPhone, was ramping up the 3G assembly line for the end of May, with production of 3 million units expected for June, and 25 million during product lifetime.

April 29, 2008: Rogers' announced the iPhone will be coming to Canada "sometime later" in the year. This began a tsunami of similarly short and vague iPhone announcements across Europe and for the first time in Asia, Latin America, Australia, and Africa. Most significantly, many of these were countries where 3G not only made sense but verged on being a deal-breaker.

May 5, 2008: derStandard.at reported that Austria(!) would shortly be serving as the testing ground for the iPhone 3G. Austria to test iPhone 3G?

May 6, 2008: Amid rumors galore, a leaked memo from AT&T revealed that once again employees were instructed not to take vacation between June 15 and July 12 due to an expected big bump in traffic from a new promotion... Hmmm...

May 12, 2008: AT&T's website suddenly showed an "iPhone Black". They later claimed it was an error, but the reasons given were nonsensical.

May 13, 2008: Surprising absolutely no one, Apple announced that Steve Jobs, joined by a team of execs, would be keynoting WWDC on June 9. More and more, all rumors led back to that date.

Steve Jobs to Keynote WWDC 2008

May 15, 2008: Fed up with AT&T hogging all the leaky glory, Intel Germany Geschäftsführer Hannes Schwaderer let slip that:

There is an iPhone with Intel’s new Atom chip. The device is slightly larger than the current version. That is not, however, because of the Intel chip, but because of the larger display used in the new iPhone.

Intel tried to claim it never happened, but others in attendance's take on the comment was:

The Intel CEO mentioned furthermore, that the display on iPhone 2 would be bigger than on iPhone 1 (although it is already quite big). iPhone 2 is also thinner than iPhone 1.

Was Intel still in the running?

The same day, banking on a Jobsnote announcement of the iPhone 3G to make history, WWDC sold out for the first time in history.

May 20, 2008: Gizmodo reported that "people in the know" said the iPhone 3G would be announced on June 9, day and date of Steve Jobs' WWDC keynote.

May 21, 2008: InfoSync claimed confirmation that the iPhone 3G would be announced June 9, and further added that AT&T would have it available for sale roughly 10 days later -- June 19 or 20.

iPhone 3G on AT&T June 19?

May 23, 2008: Import Genius analyzed data from thousands of U.S. customs declarations for Apple, Inc. and found 188 "electric computer" containers of a product never before imported by the company. What could that be...?

May 26, 2008: In a move eerily reminiscent of last years original iPhone launch, AT&T is reported to be hiring temps to bolster their ranks from June 16 - August 16, under code-name "Summer Project Pro".

May 28, 2008: Though everyone expected an iPhone 3G announcement by WWDC, based in part from leaks by Ma Bell herself, AT&T CFO Rick Lindner decided to play coy about pricing details, telling the media:

There’s not been a product announcement. There hasn’t been any pricing decisions made. That’s yet to come.

June 1, 2008: In a move amazingly reminiscent of last year's pre-original iPhone "Fine Edge" project, which boosted 2.5 G speeds, AT&T began an upgrade to boost the speed of their 3G HSPA network. Coincidence? Not.

AT&T Fastest 3G


June 5, 2008: Fortune’s Brian Caulfield (via Apple Insider) had word of yet more mysterious boxes, this time at supposed current iPhone manufacturer Quanta. While some were labeled “iMac”, 20 others were in plain brown wrappers, with employees either unavailable or unwilling to elaborate.

June 6, 2008: Apple Insider kept up with the box news, and showed packages arriving in Australia with ominous "under NDA" and "do not open until June 10" warnings. iPhone 3G in OZ: Do Not Open!

Your Turn!

So there you go, now it's your turn. Tell us what YOU think will power the iPhone 3G. Current supplier Infineon? Powerhouse Intel? Recent acquisition PA Semi? And when will we be getting an iPhone with that chip? WWDC like everyone expects? Late June? July? Sometime before the holidays?!

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, with whatever chip's in it, on the very day it's released!

Continue reading Part 2: What’s the iPhone 3G Going to Look Like?
Continue reading Part 3: What Surprises Will Be in iPhone 2.0 Software & Services?
Continue reading Part 4: What 3rd Party iPhone SDK Apps Will Be Available Launch Day?
Continue reading Part 5: What Will the iPhone 3G’s Hardware Features Be?