3G iPhone: Sooner rather than later?

"You'll have it next year."

That was AT&T (T) chairman Randall Stephenson's answer to a question yesterday about when Apple (AAPL) will introduce an iPhone that runs on a faster, third generation wireless network rather than AT&T's 2.5G EDGE network, according to an overnight report.

The remark was made at a meeting of the Churchill Club in Santa Clara, Calif., and seemed to offer slightly more hope of a speedy delivery than Steve Jobs' latest public comment on the matter.

“ Hopefully we’ll see that late next year,” was what Jobs said when asked last September why he hadn't built a 3G iPhone.

A few weeks later, Broadcom began delivering samples of a low-power integrated device it calls "a 3G Phone on a Chip" that would seem to meet Apple's requirements. It will be available next year in bulk for $23 apiece. (see here)

AT&T chairman couldn't comment on how much an iPhone built around such a chip might cost. Steve Jobs "will dictate what the price of the phone is," Stephenson said -- a choice of verbs that reveals more about the relationship of the two CEOs than he probably intended.

speculates that such a phone might fit into the $599 price slot formerly occupied by the 8 gigabyte iPhone while carrying 16 gigabytes of flash memory like the iPod touch.

Rumors that a 3G iPhone might come as early as May 2008 were floating around last week. Will Stephenson's remarks put a damper on Christmas iPhone sales? ParisLemon thinks so. Piper Jaffrey's Gene Munster not so much.

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