By Jacqui Cheng
Published: April 13, 2008 - 11:45PM CT
In the last several weeks, rumors and speculation about the upcoming 3G version of the iPhone have greatly multiplied. The reasons for this sudden increase in noise could could be any number of things, but seasoned Apple-rumor-followers know from experience that an increase in chatter almost always indicates that something is about to hit, regardless of whether any one chatterer was entirely accurate.
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So, we know it's coming, but what else? Here, we try to differentiate between what we know, what we don't, and everything in between.
What we know
Apple has made no secret of the reasoning behind not going with a 3G chip in the original iPhone. On the day of the iPhone's launch last June, Steve Jobs cited both the physical size of the chip and power consumption as the main reasons Apple favored EDGE upon launch. The company made it clear, however, that it would launch a 3G version once these issues had been worked out to Apple's liking.
Since then, information on the 3G iPhone began rolling in. In September, Apple inked a deal with InterDigital, a relatively big name when it comes to licensing 3G technologies. In November 2007, a contact at O2 (the exclusive iPhone carrier in the UK) told Ars that Apple had told the company to expect a 3G iPhone "very late next year." Later that same month, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson reinforced that anonymous comment with a more official one, saying that the 3G iPhone would come "next year."
And that's almost all that we know for sure. But before we get into the list of rumors and speculation, one more mention of 3G popped up this week when Apple released beta 3 of its iPhone SDK. Hackers found that the new firmware contains references to an updated chipset—namely, the SGOLD3H from Infineon. This chip adds support for 3G networking, including WCDMA, the 3G flavor used in Japan and Korea.
That gray area in the middle
"Experts" began weighing in on their own 3G speculations late last year, with CNBC's Jim Goldman declaring last December that he expected May or June for a 3G iPhone launch. Others, like Citigroup's Richard Gardner and Bank of America's Scott Craig, have agreed on that time frame, with Craig going so far as to say he expects 3 million units to be available in May and another 8 million by the third quarter of the year. Even the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg made an observation last week that the iPhone would go 3G "within 60 days," but he later clarified to Silicon Alley Insider that his statement was merely speculation and that he doesn't know any more than the rest of us.
While we have been skeptical in the past of a 3G iPhone release so early in the year, a June release would not be entirely unheard of—especially considering that Apple's WWDC 2008 will take place during the second week of the month.
But what about all the other little details? There are rumors to fill those gaps too. Apple resellers in Australia have allegedly gotten word that they will be able to sell 3G iPhones by the end of June, and with no carrier lock-in. (All but one of Australia's cell networks use 3G.) The Australian rumor, plus an expected Asian iPhone launch sometime this year (where 3G is also predominant) make the June release somewhat plausible.
The most recent rumors on the topic of the 3G iPhone come by way of "industry sources," who told TG Daily that the 3G iPhone will definitely launch this June at WWDC with some (but not many) changes from the original iPhone. These sources say that there will be at least two models—8GB and 16GB like the current EDGE-compatible iPhones. They will be priced the same as well, at $399 and $499, with the possibility of a 32GB $599 model. The OS will remain the same, although the casing will allegedly be about 2.5mm thinner than the current iPhone.
What we don't know
What we don't know about the 3G iPhone encompasses a lot, because there are still some details that not even the most prominent rumors have touched on. For example, the latest 3G rumors make no mention of whether the EDGE iPhone's price will drop upon introduction of the 3G models. If they both operate on the same network and the 3G models will be the same price as the EDGE models currently are, then it would only make sense. Perhaps it will be at WWDC when we will finally see the long-rumored $100 price drop on EDGE-compatible iPhones.
We also merely assume (but do not know) that the 3G iPhone will necessarily be locked into AT&T like the EDGE iPhone is currently. Apple may be on a five-year contract with AT&T, but the terms of that contract are secret, so we do not know whether it addresses specific devices or anything Apple develops with the moniker "iPhone" through 2012.
One thing we are sure of is that the buzz shows no signs of slowing down between now and the 3G iPhone's launch, so be prepared to be bombarded with news for the next couple of months. At least.