Even if the world has already had a stolen glimpse of Apple's iPhone 4G and its newest features, there are still enough unanswered questions to build drama around this summer's launch.
Apple confirmed that the iPhone prototype found in a California bar is its property and obtained its return even as pictures from Gizmodo, which bought the device for $5,000, appeared all over the Internet and in broadcast and print media.
The prototype reportedly was left in a saloon by a 27-year-old Apple engineer named Gray Powell, who tried desperately to get it back. His current employment status is not known.
A Culture of Secrecy
Apple, which reported record profits Tuesday, is as well-known for secrecy as it is for game-changing devices. The company would not even confirm that it had built a tablet computer before the Jan. 27 event that unveiled the iPad. CEO Steve Jobs likes to keep the public -- and the media -- guessing about what's coming next until he can personally demonstrate it.
But IDC Research wireless analyst Ramon Llamas said that even with his thunder stolen, Jobs can still make the iPhone launch newsworthy. For one thing, there is still a lot of speculation about whether the new version will be locked to AT&T's U.S. network, if a rumored Verizon Wireless-compatible version will emerge, or even if an unlocked edition will make the scene.
"Have we seen everything out of this story?" Llamas asked. "My answer is no."
Another missing piece of the puzzle, he noted, is whether Apple will continue marketing and supporting the current iPhone 3G and 3GS with an iPhone 4G announcement. "The next question is what happens to the 3G, and will they still sell both the 16GB and 32GB, and at what price?"
Given Apple's ability to work fast, Llamas said it's not inconceivable that Jobs could order a few tweaks to the iPhone 4G in time for the launch.
"Will they go back to the drawing board? I don't think it's necessary," he said. But if the company were to add one feature, a sliding keyboard would be a good place to start, Llamas said.
"A lot of people have said no to the iPhone because they want a hard keyboard" instead of the touchscreen, even if Apple's touchscreen is the best available, the analyst said.
'Rabid Fan Base'
But even if Apple does nothing, Llamas predicted the leak won't put much of a damper on the launch. "There is still a rabid fan base that will say, 'You know what, even if we have seen the new OS and the specs are out there, I'm still interested in seeing it.' The real question is what happens when people get their hands on it. There was only one out there, and that one has gone back to Apple."
Apple reported Tuesday that it sold nearly nine million iPhones worldwide in its second fiscal quarter, beating projections of seven million. With so many iPhones out there, it remains to be seen if Apple can continue that momentum. While the global market continues to expand, competitors are rapidly trotting out innovations inspired by Apple's user-friendly interface.
"The basic issue is that a cell phone is a renewable entity that gets replaced approximately every 18 to 24 months," said analyst Gerry Purdy of MobilTrax. "Apple, in terms of their road map, includes the expectation that there will be new consumers coming into the market in that period, whether it is young people qualifying or people starting new jobs ... It works almost like clockwork and guarantees there will be revenue for its new units."
Image credit: iStock/Artist's concept.
Posted: 2010-04-26 @ 6:47am PT
Correction to above, without flash on an iPhone, Adobe's future is not good. Apple has been doing just fine without flash. How well will Adobe do without iPhone support?
Posted: 2010-04-23 @ 7:07pm PT
Flash is old news.
Posted: 2010-04-22 @ 3:50pm PT
My wife and myself both are on verizon through our work. She is ready for an update on her phone and I qualify in a couple of months. We both have Blackberry's now, but are waiting to see if the iPhone is really coming to Verizon. If so, bye bye blackberry (even though you have been great). Time for the iPhone. I have the iTouch with wifi and it is freakin sweet. I would not be against a slide keyboard but iPhone touch screen is King.
Posted: 2010-04-22 @ 1:14pm PT
Hard keyboard ? ... OMG ... LOL
Posted: 2010-04-22 @ 11:08am PT
Slide-out keyboard? I think not! Apple is going from strength to strength! I hope I'll be able to get one in the U.K.!!
Posted: 2010-04-22 @ 9:56am PT
I don't want a sliding keyboard. I like the on-screen version. Someone who is used to BlackBerry or Win Mobile may say that a physical keyboard is needed ... maybe they also think that phones need a rotary dial instead of a keypad.
Posted: 2010-04-22 @ 9:52am PT
Here's my take: I think Apple will continue to continue marketing the 3GS and phase out the $99 3G (giving consumers a more affordable option). The reasoning behind this? It'll give them more market share from the buyers who don't necessarily want to pay that much for an iPhone, and I think the new model has enough features to distinguish itself from the 3GS model. As to the Verizon deal, I don't think that will be Mr. Job's thunder this year; maybe next year. Judging by the way the market is going, the time for a Verizon diffusion isn't ripe yet. I think once Verizon's 4G network becomes widely diffused, then Apple will jump onboard and say, "Yep we've got a phone for that." I think seeing the prototype raised more questions than it answered, and its features will somehow amaze people when the new model is introduced; the leak only provided us with surface details. We'll see what happens on June 22, 2010, since Apple has reserved the Buena Vista Center once again.
Posted: 2010-04-22 @ 9:45am PT
A sliding keyboard. LOL
Posted: 2010-04-22 @ 9:42am PT
Adding a Sliding Keyboard ? That would pretty much mean going back to the drawing board.
Posted: 2010-04-22 @ 4:29am PT
Apple is never going to have a slide-out keybord.
Posted: 2010-04-21 @ 5:25pm PT
Sliding keyboard? Time and again, analysts flash a surprising lack of understanding of the way Apple does things. A sliding keyboard would be a step backwards and Apple doesn't look back.