Optical/IP Networks

Updating the iPhone

3:10 PM -- f we assume that Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) -- like any good cellphone manufacturer -- intends to update its iPhone at least every 12 months, it's worth asking what the next major refresh of the cult smartphone might look like.

Apple introduced the 3G iPhone in July 2008 and the EDGE version in the summer before that. (See Slideshow: A Picture Is Worth 1M iPhones.) That suggests another summer update for the model this year.

But what exactly can Apple do this time around? A 3G CDMA version seems unlikely. Indeed, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) CEO Ivan Seidenberg says that Apple, "never seriously considered making a CDMA version of the iPhone."

A Long-Term Evolution (LTE) version seems like a possibility but probably not for at least two or three years. The silicon technology that underpins the proto-4G standard will really have to get smaller and cheaper before it can become commonplace in handsets. (See LTE Phones Will Lag Behind Networks .)

So what are Apple's options?

  • A cheaper version. I think that's probably unppealing to both Apple and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T).
  • A smaller and slimmer version. Seems like a better possibility, particularly if Apple wants to make sales in the Asia/Pacific market.
  • A tweaked user interface. This seems like the obvious choice, maybe with voice controls or different ways to use a touch-screen. Apple would just be exploiting its obvious advantage in this field.

    Whatever happens, Apple is definitely looking at more competition in the smartphone market. We've got more touch-screens coming from BlackBerry , Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), and Palm Inc. , to name but a few. Can any of these take Apple's crown?

    — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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