Since its launch almost exactly one year ago, Apple's iPhone has become the most talked about electronic device of the 21st century. Judged by sales, profitability or global reach, however, the iPhone remains a distant follower of more successful products made by Nokia or Research in Motion, whose Blackberry remains the gold standard for business mobiles. But its impact on both the popular imagination and the technological elite cannot be denied.
The black, glossy touch-screen interface will go down with the iPod as a benchmark of modern design, while its functionality - an effortlessly smooth integration of music, video, internet and telephone - will have the entire market playing catch-up for years to come. At a little past 10pm last night, the charismatic chief executive at Apple, Steve Jobs, was scheduled to deliver another famed "Stevenote". A blend of performance art, slick marketing and technological evangelism, Mr Jobs's yearly product releases have attracted levels of popular and media attention like no other company in the world.
For months leading up to last night's address, it has been widely accepted that a new iPhone would be launched at the event. Knowing Mr Jobs and his ability to constantly surprise, this speculation may prove incorrect. But in the spirit of the Stevenote and the media frenzy it invokes, the following is a prediction of what a new iPhone will look like and how it will operate.
To keep the first iPhone thin, light and battery-friendly, Apple used a second generation (2G) chip set that transferred data over the EDGE standard, which allowed transmission speeds of up to 256 kilobits per second. The new iPhone could use new third generation (3G) chips that would allow for high-speed data communication, with speeds of up to 7.2 megabits per second. Such speeds would enable data-heavy functions like streaming video, web browsing and video calling to be done smoothly over mobile networks. The impact on battery life would be one of the major question marks to be resolved at the launch. Across the board, 3G-enabled phones generally show poorer battery life than the rest of the market.
One of the most visible features of a 3G-enabled phone is its front-facing camera, which allows the user to make a video call. It is expected that Apple would include such a camera in the new iPhone. The company's iChat instant messaging software, which is integrated into the Mac operating system, already has advanced video chat functionality. As Apple has already extended a number of Mac applications such as iPhoto, iCal and Mail, expect to see an iChat-powered video calling service included in the new iPhone. And as capturing frame-by-frame video is an integral part of video calling, it is likely that the new iPhone will also allow users to capture video from its camera, a feature not available on existing models.
In March, the company released a software development kit (SDK) that allows developers to create new applications for the iPhone. Apple has maintained a tight control over what can and cannot be installed on iPhones, and software developers must have their applications "approved" by Apple before they can be made available for installation. It is expected that a number of new, third-party applications for the iPhone could be released along with the new iPhone. Programmes would be sold through the company's "App Store" an extension of the iTunes Music Store, which is the world's largest music retailer.
Business-focused programmes that can integrate the phone with corporate applications will be popular, as Apple moves its focus to the corporate market dominated by the Blackberry. The customer relationship management business, Salesforce, has demonstrated an iPhone adaptation of its software at the launch of the SDK. Due to its large, touch-screen interface, the device is also promising a platform for game developers. With an inbuilt accelerometer, similar to the controller for the Nintendo Wii, the iPhone can detect physical movement, another feature likely to be utilised by game developers.
A Global Positioning System (GPS) chip is becoming a standard feature on high-end phones, and is one of the more likely candidates for inclusion in the new iPhone. The devices already come installed with a mapping feature, powered by the Google Maps service. In markets like the United States, location is roughly pinpointed on the map by locating the nearest transmission tower. By including a GPS chip, the mapping and location finding power of the iPhone would be greatly improved, and would remain as functional in outlying regions, and across the world, as it is in urban areas.
Internet applications and gaming that are location-based are expected to become mainstream in the coming years, as GPS becomes a ubiquitous component of cell phones and other devices. firstname.lastname@example.org