iExpectations: What's Next For The iPhone?

What's On Your Wish List For the iPhone?

There's an awful lot of iTalk these days.

Some people are asking whether Apple will unveil a more economical version of the wildly popular iPhone and whether AT&T, the sole wireless carrier for the iPhone in the U.S., will offer a reduced data plan.

From AppleInsider.com to MacRumors.com, there is plenty of speculation. And anticipation is growing leading up to June 8, when Apple is expected to unveil the next generation of the iPhone at the company's annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Apple has already said it will unveil a new mobile operating system (3.0) for the iPhone. At last year's conference, the company revealed the second version of the iPhone, and Apple devotees say the company may be setting up a pattern for releasing a new version of the iPhone each summer.

The iPhone is currently sold in two configurations: a $199 8-gigabyte model and a $299 16-gigabyte model, both of which require a two-year contract. But there is speculation that Apple and AT&T may trim costs for consumers and that they may add another iPhone into the mix with even more memory.

iWish List

Kent German, senior editor for CNET, says the software update will enable multimedia messaging and stereo Bluetooth, two features on his wish list.

But there are still a number of features that he and other iPhone power users hope Apple will add to any new incarnation of the device, including:

• Support for Flash video

• Improved battery life

• More memory, namely a 32-gigabyte version

• A faster processor

• Improved syncing, including the ability to sync outside of iTunes to accommodate the transfer of Microsoft Word documents and other files

• Video recording capability

• Photo editing features

• Tethering, or the ability to have the phone function as a modem for computer

• Using voice commands to dial the phone

German says users typically only get about a day's worth of battery life with the iPhone, especially if they're using the Web browser a lot. In addition to improved battery life, he hopes voice dialing becomes integrated in any new iPhone.

"This feature is needed considering so many jurisdictions now require you to use a headset or a Bluetooth device while driving," he says. There are already applications available for purchase at Apple's App Store that enable iPhone users to do voice dialing, he notes.

Popularity Contest

But for everyone who has a case of iEnvy, keep in mind that Research In Motion's BlackBerry smart phones are still holding strong in the market. The BlackBerry Curve was the best-selling smart phone during the first quarter of the year, according to the NPD Group, a firm that tracks consumer retail trends. (Apple's iPhone was the No. 2 device, followed by the BlackBerry Storm, BlackBerry Pearl and T-Mobile's G1 phone.)

NPD says smart phones accounted for 23 percent of handset sales in the first quarter, up from 17 percent a year earlier.

'iPhone On Steroids'

In addition to speculation that a new version of the iPhone is on the way, there is the question of whether Apple will offer something entirely new.

Technology forecaster Paul Saffo says a likely spot that Apple may focus on — if and when it launches a new device — is creating something like an "iPhone on steroids."

By that, he means a device that is bigger than a pocket so that it can provide a more gratifying video experience. Launching a device in this mid-size category could mean producing something as small as a paperback book that might still fit in a coat pocket. Or it could be something slightly larger — akin to the size of the deluxe Kindle reading device that Amazon announced earlier this month, which has a screen that's just shy of 10 inches. Amazon says it will start shipping the new Kindle this summer.

The new Kindle is "an indicator that this whole middle zone of devices that are larger than a pocket and smaller and more convenient than a laptop are merging," Saffo says.

In the next several months, he sees more "media viewers" hitting the market, with some focused on reading print and others designed for video. Of course, it's possible that these devices will accommodate both.

Cinthia Portugal, a spokeswoman for Amazon.com, says the Kindle is "built for reading" and declined to discuss the company's future plans.

Amazon says the latest Kindle holds up to 3,500 books, and its screen "reads like printed words on paper" because it uses a technology called "electronic paper" display, which enables users to read in a variety of lighting conditions without glare. Portugal says adding other capabilities — unrelated to reading — would cause the device to get hot, beep and generate fan noise, which would take away from the reading experience.

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