RealTime IT News

Apple Watchers Salivate Over 3G iPhone Rumors

Apple will unveil a new iPhone at its sold-out developers conference Monday in San Francisco; at least that's the consensus among the numerous rumor sites, developers and media outlets speculating in the days leading up to the event.

Once again, Apple's done an exceptional job of building expectations for an announcement it's never publicly confirmed.

Will the new iPhone offer higher 3G speeds? New apps? New touchscreen technology? The only thing Apple or carrier partner AT&T has said publicly this year about a new iPhone release is that it will happen "this year."

But all the ducks are lined up. Apple released the beta of its software development kit (SDK) in March with the final version due out this month. Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco will, for the first time, include a track for iPhone developers.

Also, a number of sessions on the WWDC developer site schedule are listed as "Session to be Determined" which may indicate content Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) wants to keep under wraps about the new iPhone.

Industry analyst Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, is a longtime Apple observer who thinks all the hype and speculation about a new iPhone is a bit misguided.

"Remember, this is a developer conference," Bajarin told InternetNews.com. "Apple's goal is going to be to help developers understand the company's software strategy and encourage them to write programs for the Mac and the iPhone. Whatever news comes out of WWDC, I expect 80 percent of it to be software-related."

And that's even if a new iPhone with higher 3G speed capability is released.

"The iPhone is a tough act to follow," Bajarin said. "They add a 3G radio and some other touches that are nice -- that's fine, but it's evolutionary. You have to look at the iPhone as more a blank slate. It's the software that will bring new features that are most exciting, not the hardware."

Which is not to say Apple won't bring some interesting new hardware into play.

There's been speculation of an additional camera for videoconferencing and enhancements to the iPhone's touchscreen features, which so many competitors have scrambled to copy. InternetNews.com's sister site PDA Street reported in late April that Apple may license haptic technology called VibeTonz from tactile-feedback player Immersion.

The technology could allow Apple to include vibration-based feedback in future releases of the iPhone, if not the new version rumored to be announced Monday.

More than just a vibrating phone, the inclusion of VibeTonz technology could let developers independently control both vibration strength and frequency for what Immersion calls high-fidelity touch sensations. One area this could help is with the iPhone's virtual keys, giving users something closer to the sense they're actually pressing a key.

On the software side, expect a slew of announcements as developers go public with their first efforts working with the SDK.

In March, Apple announced that there had been over 100,000 downloads of the SDK. At the SDK beta launch, companies such as Salesforce.com, Intuit and NetSuite showed preliminary applications based on only weeks with the developer tools. Expect more polished, media-rich applications to come out this week.

And applications are just the beginning. The iPhone has done such a good job establishing itself as a mobile Web platform, advertisers are chomping at the bit to grab some of its small screen real estate.

"When you think about the differences between iPhone and other mobile devices, where something like 85 percent of iPhone users access the Web versus about ten percent for all others, it's a phenomenal platform," David Staas, vice president of marketing for Ad Infuse, told InternetNews.com.

For rich content advertisers, Staas said advertising on the iPhone is like "advertising on TV channels everyone watches."

Staas said the iPhone was by far the most prominent media platform in several mobile video ad campaigns his firm developed.

"Even though the iPhone is only about one percent of all mobile phones, we've had some campaigns where over 70 percent of the impressions came from iPhone users," he said.

And while Apple remains mum on all but the barest details of the next generation of iPhone, Staas is confident the device's strong position is about to get even better.

"Advertisers want a deeper level of engagement and they'll get even more of that with a 3G iPhone and what developers can do with the SDK," he said.