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Apple to Announce iPhone Updates

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Apple to Announce iPhone Updates

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Apple to Announce iPhone Updates

Apple to Announce iPhone Updates

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/91303977/91303947" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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It's been almost a year since the iPhone hit stores. Since the iPhone's launch, Apple hasn't made many changes to the wildly popular device, but that could be about to change. Apple is under pressure to keep innovating and boost sales. It's expected to announce details of a new iPhone on Monday.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And Apple has fans and investors buzzing about a new version of the iPhone. The iPhone has been one of the hottest new gadgets in years, but the company's under pressure to keep innovating and boost sales. Today, Apple's expected to announce details of its new iPhone. From San Francisco, Cyrus Farivar reports.

CYRUS FARIVAR: Predicting the exact timing of a major upgrade from Apple is tricky business. But Jason Snell, editorial director of Macworld Magazine says that this year it's pretty obvious.

Mr. JASON SNELL (Macworld Magazine): The current version of the iPhone disappeared from Apple.com online store about a month ago, and that's a pretty good sign that something's happened at the factory and they're making something else instead. So I think everybody anticipates - and rightly so - that we're also going to see a new iPhone debut roughly a year after the last one did.

FARIVAR: The new version of the iPhone is predicted to have a much higher speed data capability, known in the industry as 3G. That means if you're not within range of a Wi-Fi hotspot you can still surf the Internet much faster than you can on the current model.

Macworld's Jason Snell adds that there are also predictions that with 3G on the phone, Apple could add over the air synching to a computer or online backup service. Today, getting data between a computer and the iPhone requires plugging it in with a cable - very old-school.

There are also rumors afoot that the new version may be thinner or hold more data than the current model. Apple watchers also say that it might have GPS on the phone as well, something that an increasing number of competing phones have had for some time.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is set to kick of the Worldwide Developer Conference with his keynote address later this morning.

For NPR News, I'm Cyrus Farivar.

MONTAGNE: And you can read about 3G longer battery life and other items on the wish lists of iPhone fans by going to npr.org.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

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A New, Faster iPhone on the Way?

In the first quarter of 2008, Apple Inc. had the third-highest market share for smart-phone sales. Alice Kreit/NPR hide caption

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Alice Kreit/NPR

In the first quarter of 2008, Apple Inc. had the third-highest market share for smart-phone sales.

Alice Kreit/NPR

Changes to Apple's iPhone are on the horizon that may make the phone more user-friendly for consumers and for the corporate world. At the top of the wish list is the migration of the phone to a 3G or third-generation network, which will allow for faster Internet browsing and downloads.

Software developers, analysts and bloggers are abuzz with rumors about software improvements for the iPhone and whether Apple Inc. will announce a new phone or group of phones. Fueling the speculation that Apple will be releasing a new iPhone is the fact that Apple.com and AT&T Wireless are out of inventory. On Monday afternoon, Apple's Web site had a message on a virtual post-it that said "We'll be back soon," explaining to visitors that the store was busy updating its inventory.

The answer? We'll have to wait until Monday afternoon Eastern time, when CEO Steve Jobs takes the stage in San Francisco at the company's annual worldwide developers' conference.

"The propaganda is obviously they're going to do 3G. One question I have in my mind is whose 3G — American, European or a combined one?" says David Farber, distinguished career professor of computer science and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University.

American and European networks use different 3G standards. Farber says he hopes Apple will offer a solution that works across networks, since hardware that can do this already exists.

While phones compatible with a 3G network are relatively new in the U.S., consumers have come to expect it in many foreign markets. Total sales of 3G phones in North America are expected to rise nearly 35 percent over the next year, from almost 109 million in 2008 to 146.8 million in 2009, according to Gartner, a technology research company.

A 3G network is akin to having a broadband connection for the Internet, says Kent German, a senior editor for CNET.com. "The current iPhone runs on a slower network called Edge, which is like using dial-up," he says.

AT&T, however, has 3G networks that would allow faster Internet browsing on the iPhone, German says. This would be a key upgrade, because the iPhone has a full Internet browser on its screen, so Web pages appear as they do on a computer. But current iPhone users would have to purchase a new phone to take advantage of the 3G speeds.

Longer Battery Life?

Among other items at the top of the consumer wish list for the iPhone are longer battery life, multimedia messaging, GPS and a better camera that can also shoot video.

"Aside from user interface, Apple had a lot of room to catch up," says Farber. "In a funny way, the thing most people would like is more battery life. Even now, when you put a lot of stuff in the phone, the battery life is marginal for a day. If all you're doing is talking, it's fine. But if you're pulling in a lot of data — it's touch and go."

Many consumers would also like to see an iPhone with more battery life because the battery cannot be replaced. The problem may be exacerbated on a 3G network, unless Apple tweaks the battery performance. "The problem with all cell phones is, if you're operating as 3G, your battery life is shorter," Farber explains.

Consumer Wish List

German says he'd like to see the iPhone equipped with integrated GPS, to allow people to obtain verbal and on-screen driving directions, and instant messaging, as well as voice dialing, since more states are implementing laws banning cell phone use while driving.

"One thing that's missing which really, really needs to be there that is found on almost every other phone in the universe is multimedia messaging," he says. This allows a user to send a photo taken on the iPhone directly to another cell phone. Presently, iPhone users can send photos only to an e-mail address.

Other features German hopes Apple will incorporate: the ability to cut and paste, a Safari Web browser that supports Flash Web sites, and stereo Bluetooth, which would allow a listener to hear music through wireless stereo headphones. As a veteran user of the device, German also hopes Apple will add a memory card slot, tactile feedback for the touch screen, and the ability to use MP3s as ringtones.

Another question is whether the iPhone will be compatible with and available to wireless providers other than AT&T (the two companies have a five-year agreement). German says some consumers have been able to unlock the iPhone to use it on the T-Mobile network, but the phones lock up again when Apple software updates are installed. Using the iPhone on other networks also prevents consumers from gaining access to the full range of features AT&T customers have, he says. Verizon and Sprint use a different technology, so Apple would have to revamp the iPhone's innards to make it work on those networks.

More than 1.7 million Apple iPhones were sold in the first quarter of 2008, giving Apple a 5.3 percent market share in the smart-phone market, according to Gartner. Nokia was the market leader, with 45.2 percent of sales, totaling 14.6 million phones, while Research in Motion, which produces the BlackBerry, had 13.4 percent of sales, totaling 4.3 million phones.