Rumor round-up: Major iPhone hardware upgrade

March 24, 2009, 2:31 PM UTC

The pace of iPhone rumors has picked up significantly since Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone 3.0 special event last week, and Monday yielded an especially rich crop.

Getting the most attention is the 10-point memo from The Boy Genius Report, a blog with unusually good sources within AT&T (T). But details are pouring in from a wide variety of unofficial outlets, sketching the outlines of what’s shaping up as a major hardware upgrade — one that’s perhaps even more significant than last summer’s release of the iPhone 3G.

Among the details we’re feeling increasingly confident about:

  • It will be announced in June. A leak in early February said it would come in June. The Boy Genius says mid-June. We say June 8, unveiled perhaps by Steve Jobs himself.
  • It will ship in July. As senior VP Phil Schiller told the New York Times in January (link), Apple now marches to its own seasonal product cycles, which for the past two years have included long lines forming outside Apple Stores in early July or very late June to buy the latest iPhones.
  • It will offer faster Internet access. The Boy Genius hints at a doubling of download speeds (to 7.2 Mps) using a new chipset from Infineon (IFX). This follows last Friday’s Silicon Alley Insider report of faster Internet access and Electronista’s report that Infineon’s new chipset, due in mid-2009, would support the faster speeds while also improving battery life. See AppleInsider’s Prince McLean, who lays out the evolution of AT&T’s 3G and 4G networks in chart form.
  • It will have a new architecture. Some inspired firmware sleuthing by MacRumors last January revealed a product number — iPhone2,1 — never seen before. As AppleInsider pointed out at the time, the first and second iPhone identify themselves as iPhones 1,1 and 1,2. (link) The shift to 2,1, by Apple’s product numbering conventions, suggests a major product upgrade.
  • It will have a faster chipset. MacRumors reports that Apple has been buying up supplies of the new Marvell (MRVL) PXA168 ARM chip introduced in January and may have settled on it “as the heart of a future device.” According to the manufacturer, the chip “delivers the processing capabilities of an entry-level laptop to instant-on, digital consumer devices by enabling full-featured web surfing, Internet widgets, multi-format video, Adobe (ADBE) Flash Lite-based content playback, image processing, video conferencing and advanced graphical user interfaces (GUIs) – at consumer price points with ultra-low power for longer battery life.”
  • It will be integrated with AT&T‘s TV services. According to The Boy Genius, it will support the U-verse protocol, which Wikipedia describes as AT&T’s attempt to “leapfrog current cable television-and-internet services by offering features like a DVR that can record up to four shows at a time and is programmable from any web-connected computer.” (link) In a long essay posted Tuesday in Roughly Drafted Magazine, Daniel Eran Dilger suggests that this could signal a major effort by Apple to make reinvent Apple TV as a high definition TV controller and digital video recorder running on AT&Ts expanding TV services.
  • It will support more sophisticated games. The buzz at this week’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco is the challenge the iPhone — with its 6,000 games and frictionless App Store — is posing for dedicated game machines made by Microsoft (MSFT), Sony (SNE) and Nintendo. Apple’s hand could be considerably strengthened if the rumored improvements in its graphics capabilities — for example, by incorporating the Imagination Technologies PowerVR SGX543 chip introduced at January’s Consumer Electronics Show (see here) — find their way into the new iPhone. See also the iPhone graphics round-up published last week in IntoMobile.

There’s lots more where that came from. AppleInsider reports that the new iPhone will come with a built-in videocam. The Boy Genius talks about autofocus cameras, slide-out keyboards and $99 netbooks, but that’s where our attention starts to wane.

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