The next version of the iPhone is receiving quite a "buzz" in the media. I think this is because it is rumored to finally fix some of the major omissions that have plagued the iPhone since version 1.0. Users are getting excited that the iPhone will finally live up to the promises made at the original introduction 2 years ago.

Anyone who reads this blog knows I’ve been quite vocal about the many shortcomings of the original iPhone. These opinions come from a person who has been using the iPhone as his only phone since day one of its original introduction. I like the phone a lot, but it always fell short of the Apple hype engine claims. It has never for a moment been a "revolutionary" communication device. Every feature the iPhone had at its introduction had been available for years from other smart phone makers. In fact, there were/still are a lot of basic features missing which those other phones have had for years. The primary difference was always the simple user interface. Apple made it easier to use those myriad functions. That’s evolutionary progress, not revolutionary.

iphone4gkopf Fast forward two years from that over-hyped introduction and we’re now looking forward to the release of the third version of the iPhone. It took two years, but it seems Apple has finally listened to owners and filled in the many missing features we’ve been requesting literally since day one. In my mind, this latest release finally makes the iPhone equal in features with all of the other smart phones on the market. The easy user interface pushes it over the top. If the rumored feature set of this third iPhone is true, I can finally put away my soap box and agree that this new iPhone will be the best smart phone out there. So, here are the details of what I have seen rumored. (mockup photo from

What can we reasonably expect in the third iPhone?

  • Increased RAM size. The RAM used for executing programs in the current iPhone is 128MB. This is expected to be doubled to 256MB for the new version. That’s a huge improvement.
  • Increased performance. The main CPU in the new iPhone is expected to jump to 600MHz clock speed from 400MHz in the current version. There are also other optimizations which might give it an additional boost, so that the total performance gain will be more than 50%.
  • Wider range of storage capacities. The new iPhone is expected to come in as many as 4 different storage capacities. They are 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB. Folks like me with large audio libraries will finally be able to put their music collection on their iPhone! People who only use the phone for email and browsing will get a price break by buying the smallest capacity unit. Everyone wins.
  • Cut and paste. This is a big one that has been missing and requested loudly since the beginning.
  • MMS support. This is another one of the most requested missing features. Owners of the new iPhone will finally be able to exchange basic audio/video/photo messages with nearly every other cell phone owner out there. No more logging onto a web site to type in a bizarre code so you can view a message sent to you from a $29 phone. No more embarrassment that those $29 phones can do something your expensive phone can’t do.
  • Improved Bluetooth support. I think we’ll finally see stereo headset support. I also think we’ll see Bluetooth keyboard support and possibly Bluetooth printing. I think we’ll likely also see tethering support with some artificial limitation attached. Probably the limitation will be that you pay extra for a tether-friendly data plan from AT&T.;
  • Video recording and simple editing. In order to fully-implement MMS, they needed to be able to record video. So, they wrapped this feature in a simple application to use any time.
  • Audio recording. The same note applies for MMS audio recordings. They had to implement it anyway, so they made it available as a new application.
  • Improved camera image quality. This comes in the form of better light sensitivity and auto focus functionality built-in. The camera will be less prone to image blur. I wonder if digital image stabilization isn’t also an element of this equation. I’m betting on simple face recognition, as well.
  • Improved camera resolution. This rumor is still the subject of debate. Many say the new camera will be 3.2MP. I’m not holding my breath on this one, but it does make sense. Frankly, if they just improve the quality of the images from the existing camera, that will go a long way toward making people happy.
  • Digital compass. Being able to orient the device in 3D space will be a useful enhancement to GPS positioning abilities. The digital compass application looks pretty cool, too.
  • Turn-by-turn navigation. With the digital compass added, all of the hardware is there to do real turn-by-turn navigation. If they use Google Maps, it should be fairly straightforward to implement this. I believe this rumor is true.
  • Percentage indicator for battery life. This is a small thing that will be very handy. The existing indicator just isn’t accurate enough to be useful. I really hope this one is true.
  • Nike+ support and a built-in Nike+ application. This rumor looks like it may be true. I could easily see Nike making a deal with Apple to include it. It’s a cool application and it could be a beneficial partnership – selling more product for both companies.
  • Downloadable iTunes TV/Movies. This one is a tough call. On the one hand, you have AT&T; whining about bandwidth usage. On the other, you have Apple trying to further pump up their highly-profitable iTunes sales. IF this happens, it will likely be limited to WiFi downloads only for a long time.
  • Pseudo background application support. This will come in the form of push notifications being available to most applications. It will give applications the feel of background execution, without actually sucking up CPU and battery time. We’ll have to wait and see how well this works in reality.
  • Further enhancements to Exchange Server compatibility. By this, I mean slight tweaks, not drastic improvements. The iPhone will still lack the extensive configuration capabilities that the Blackberry enjoys, but for most people the iPhone will be more than adequate. Just don’t try to change your auto-responder from your iPhone.
  • Global search. This was another feature requested by many, but ignored by Steve Jobs. The iPhone owner will finally be able to do what Palm’s have done for well over a decade – search through everything on the device from a single search box. It’s about time.
  • Positioning information will now be available within the browser, in the form of JavaScript classes. This will open up all kinds of cool online services based on where you are standing at that moment. Expect to hear about a lot of cool web sites which take advantage of this shortly after introduction. For example, you could watch your friends move around town in real time on a map at a social networking site. I think Google has already been working on exactly this type of thing.
  • Apple logo that lights up. Seriously? Why waste the battery power? Perhaps they plan to simply let the LCD back light bleed through to the logo on the back, but it’s supposedly a true rumor. We’ll see.

What rumors are probably not true?

  • Improved battery life. I’ll believe this one when I see it. I don’t see how they can add so much functionality, as well as new hardware, while reducing the battery load at the same time. They may claim longer battery life, but I don’t think any of us will see it in real world usage. I’d be mostly happy if it just doesn’t get any worse.
  • Adobe Flash support. As much as people have been asking for this, I think Adobe would tell us if they were ready to introduce it. They haven’t said a word. So, I don’t think it’s coming any time soon. It’s a shame because so many web sites don’t offer an alternative to their Flash menus. I’m sure not having Flash support will be the main thing I still complain about on this new iPhone.
  • Apple TV functionality with HD video support. While I think they will take a stab at letting people download videos and TV to their iPhones using iTunes, I don’t think the iPhone will support HD content. It’s really pointless to do this until the display can at least come close to rendering it fully. I don’t see HD or Apple TV functionality coming to the iPhone for at least a year, if not two.
  • Built-in uploading of recorded videos to YouTube. I really think Apple only tolerates YouTube. If there is ANY built-in uploading of videos, it will probably be set to work exclusively with Apple’s own (lame) online service. Apple is very inbred when it comes to forcing its products to only work with its services. I do think this ability will appear on the iPhone, just not from Apple.
  • HD or FM radio receiver. I can’t imagine Apple letting people listen to the radio instead of forcing them to buy songs from iTunes.
  • Matte black and matte white finishes. Apple has always been tilted toward glossy and shiny, so I can’t imagine they would offer anything in a matte finish. Then again, this is a phone. Maybe they will listen to the complaints of users about scratches and fingerprints and coat it with a protective finish of some sort. We can hope, but I’m not very optimistic about this one.
  • Enhanced "super" 3G support. Some are calling it 3.5G+ or 3.75G. I don’t think it will make it into this generation of iPhone, but all bets are off on the next version. AT&T; is finally beefing up their high speed cellular support and the future looks brighter than it ever has. Now, if only we could get them to lighten up on bandwidth restrictions, we might see mobile to mobile video chat (which has existed forever in the Orient) in our lifetimes. Our communications systems in this country are so primitive in comparison to the rest of the world. It’s sad, really.

What rumors are definitely not true?

  • Full iChat support integrated. Sure this would be nice, but I doubt we’ll see it anytime soon. AT&T; has us all by the short hairs when it comes to guarding their bandwidth.
  • WiFi draft N support. I don’t believe we’ll see this. They have only recently embraced draft N support in their desktops and laptops. I’m sure they don’t think it’s important enough for the iPhone.
  • Built-in FM transmitter. Not likely either. There isn’t enough space inside the device and it would eat up the battery quicker.
  • Front facing camera for video chatting. Not happening because of bandwidth limitations set by AT&T.; Maybe in two years, but no way it’s happening in this version.
  • OLED screen. That would push the price too high and this is one of their few devices where Apple grudgingly acknowledges that price is somewhat important. Until OLEDs are cheaper and being manufactured in sufficient quantities, we won’t see them on iPhones. It just isn’t realistic. We might see LED backlighting for the LCD display, though. That, I could see happening.
  • Any drastic changes to the form factor. The 3rd iPhone will only have minor cosmetic tweaks if anything. It will retain the same basic layout, shape, and dimensions as prior versions.
  • Carbon fiber casing. I can’t see anyone using carbon fiber for a telephone casing. It is too brittle. The first drop would bust it open. I think the new iPhone will use the same plastic as the 3G with little change to anything.
  • Editing of Word and Excel files. With third parties jumping in to fill this void, I don’t see Apple wasting the resources to add this ability. There are already a couple of good applications for this task available from iTunes, so they’ll make their money that way.

When will we see the new iPhone?

Some of the features mentioned above will appear in version 3.0 of the operating system, which is supposed to be introduced for existing iPhones on June 8, 2009. There are rumors that this upgrade will be sold, not free. Because some of the functions depend on new hardware, users of older iPhones simply won’t see some of the new features.

The new iPhone device will appear over a month later, on July 17th, 2009. I’m sure we’ll be able to tell what hardware/software made the final cut during the weeks between those two dates. I expect to hear about a lot of first generation iPhone owners finally trading in their phones once the new one hits the shelves. I’m certainly in that category.

Yes, it’s a great update. The feature set will finally be mostly complete. But before you start thinking I’m completely content with the rumored abilities of this new iPhone, let me reassure you with the following section:

What would I like to see added next?

  • Flash support is the one blindingly obvious item which needs to happen sooner rather than later. Flash may not be an open standard, but it is a de facto standard used on a large number of commercial web sites. Deal with it Apple! Help Adobe create it.
  • LED backlighting on the display. It’s brighter for sunny days and displays much better color. Even OLED wouldn’t be a big improvement if they put LED backlighting on the display.
  • WiFi draft N. If they are going to keep limiting large downloads to WiFi only, at least give us decent speed on the WiFi.
  • Increased display resolution – but only if it doesn’t make everything harder to read for those of us who are getting old. In other words, give us a way to keep the font sizes big enough to see while displaying images or video at the increased resolution.
  • Higher resolution camera – but only if the picture quality doesn’t suffer in the process. More pixels are useless if the picture is blurry.
  • Switch-able LED lighting for video and photo recording in darkened rooms like clubs or restaurants.
  • HD video playback. Sure, 720p would be the logical first step, but eventually I’d like to see full 1080p output. Of course, this is probably a long-term goal. More and more hotel rooms have flat panels with HDMI connections. Just add a micro-HDMI port and let me watch my iPhone videos on my hotel room TV in full high definition. Let me display presentations on conference room flat panels, too. Is that a presentation in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
  • An SD or even micro SD expansion slot. Sometimes you just want more space for your stuff. Downloading videos will make that even more critical.
  • A user-replaceable battery. Even if it’s just a back that opens more easily and a battery cable which unplugs, make it replaceable by the end user damn it. NOBODY wants to be without their phone while it gets shipped in for a new battery to be installed. That’s retarded.
  • Add the ability to edit calendar events, alarms, and contacts from inside iTunes. This is another thing Palm’s have had for over a decade. Get with the program Apple.
  • Add the ability to drag songs or albums onto your iPhone without creating a damned play list first. Sometimes I just want the music on there to listen to on a whim. I don’t need it to be part of a play list.

Yes, you’re right. I’m a picky bloke who can always come up with a wish list for any device. The new iPhone will absolutely be a big improvement over previous generations. In fact, if the rumors are true, this could be the best phone out there. But there is always room for improvement.

Summing it up.

In a nutshell, the 3rd iPhone version looks like it will finally fulfill the promise of the original iPhone introduction two years ago. The wide variety of feature shortcomings which held the device back from widespread acceptance will finally be addressed. With these feature and hardware additions, the feature set required to call itself a modern smart phone will finally be nearly complete. Unlike the 3G introduction, which only increased download speed and added a GPS radio, this third version looks like the real "second coming" of the iPhone. It actually looks to be an upgrade worth buying for those of us with first generation iPhones. I’m excited to see how the rumors pan out.

I fully expect iPhone 3 will take off like a rocket after introduction. By this time next year, I’m predicting the already large installed base of iPhones will have tripled and Apple will be doing quite well, indeed, thanks to iPhone and iTunes sales. Currently, if you remove the iPhone, iPod Touch, and their associated iTunes sales increases from Apple’s financial numbers, Apple would have done as poorly as the rest of the tech sector or worse. Instead, they have been relatively untouched by the floundering economy. This new version of the iPhone looks like it will further boost Apple’s numbers to amazing levels of health. If you have Apple stock, hold onto it. The iPhone’s future looks very bright.

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