April 2008 Archives
Seems iPhone rumors are in vogue again as more than a few observers have noted that Apple's supply of iPhones in the US isn't currently keeping up in the order fulfillment department. Given Apple's "just-in-time" supply chain, this has given a few analyst reason to suggest that iPhone updates are just around the corner since Apple traditionally slows down its supply chain ahead of new product releases.
While I do expect a 3G iPhone from Apple this year, I don't think it's going to be released in the next few days. Nope, June is my guess. Why? Well, Apple just released the larger 16 GB iPhone in February while also seeding the software development kit (SDK) for the iPhone/iPod Touch in beta form that will be formally released in June at its annual developer conference. Since June will also mark the one year anniversary of the iPhone why not celebrate (and more to the point make sure the press takes notice) with a newer 3G model?
More to the point of 3G, last year Apple announced that as part of its worldwide rollout for the iPhone, Asia would see the iPhone in 2008. While that technically gives Apple till December, it does raise the point that Japan (and I think South Korea) use at the minimum 3G backed networks. Thus to release the iPhone in Japan, as part of an Asia rollout, Apple will need to have a 3G capable phone. Recent rumors also include "wish list" items such as VoIP and video conferencing, which on a 3G network (or WiFi in the case of Voice over IP, why would AT&T allow you to bypass their voice network?) might not be too bad.
But my question is what will come of those older iPhones? Apple has a sales goal of 10 million iPhones by the end of 2008. Why completely stop production of perfectly viable models that can be sold at a lower price point with AT&T or, dare I hope, unlocked for use with other networks? Thus I think the supply issue is just a bump in the road for Apple, perhaps an issue with an upstream supplier? Perhaps, an issue with its flash memory supplier, which is working in tight market conditions as it and other manufactures ramp up to meet demand for ever increasing memory capacity in various devices (phones, cameras, USB drives, portable media devices, et. al.).
As for the unlocked iPhone executives at Apple have mentioned that they are "not wedded" to the locked-networked bundle method. Other cell phone makers have "exclusive" contracts with service providers that don't completely preclude them from selling unlocked models. The question here, which I can't answer, is what does AT&T's 5-year exclusivity mean for Apple? Could it mean AT&T just gets exclusive dibs on new models? Does it mean feature set?
After all I suspect Apple can easily make its 10 million mark if it sold the current 2.5G models in 8, 16 or perhaps 32 GB variations at less than the current $399 price point and a "premium" model with Visual Voicemail, iChat video conferencing, 32 GB or more memory and 3G data network capability exclusively for AT&T customers at the same time. As a bonus, with an unlocked phone and SDK release Apple would deliver and one-two knockout punch to the underground iPhone market