Report: Apple Developing Smaller iPhones, Dual-Band Tech

| Analysis

The Apple Crystal Ball
Apple is working on several new technologies for its iPhone product line, including smaller, less expensive models and technology that would allow iPhones to work on both GSM and CDMA networks, according to Bloomberg. Citing unnamed sources, the news service said that Apple was also working on technology that would allow customers to choose a network without the need for store clerks or other assistance.

I know this guy…

Bloomberg’s source was an unnamed person who had “seen a prototype” of a smaller iPhone that Apple is supposedly developing to sell at a lower price point to help fight Google’s Android platform. Such unspecified sources are common, but what was unusual for a mainstream article was the fact that Bloomberg noted that Apple works on many products that don’t necessarily see the light of day.

In other words, there is little doubt that Apple is working on other versions of the iPhone, and that the company has done so all along. Apple execs have as much as said so at press conferences and media events when discussing why and how the company was offering a particular form factor.

For instance, Apple CEO Steve Jobs laid out the case for why a 7” tablet offered an inferior experience on a tablet — saying that such a screen size was too big for a smartphone and too small to offer a proper user interface on a tablet — it was strongly implied that Apple had tried multiple form factors in its labs. Company execs have also mentioned more than once that they were just as proud of the products the company had decided not to ship as they were of those that saw the floor of an Apple Store.

With that in mind, there is also little doubt that Apple has been working on various smaller versions of the iPhone, and that the company would like to be able to offer an iPhone at a lower price point. In fact, rumors like this one have surfaced more than once since the iPhone’s initial unveiling more than four years ago.

The question is whether or not this particular prototype seen by Bloomberg’s source is any more likely to see the light of day than any of the others developed in Apple’s black labs.

Two be or not two be

One of the other things mentioned in Bloomberg’s article is the idea of of a dual band iPhone for use on both GSM and CDMA networks. Such a development would make it markedly easier for Apple to manage global inventories of the device, especially now that the iPhone is being sold for both AT&T (GSM) and Verizon (CDMA).

It also dovetails nicely with reports of dual band chipsets in development at Qualcomm and other companies that would be appropriate for Apple’s iPhone needs. Accordingly, whether or not we see it, there is little doubt that Apple is working on such developments internally.

DYI Smartphone

Lastly, Bloomberg reported that Apple was working on technology that make it possible to choose a network and configure your iPhone without help from store clerks (or carrier employees). When Apple released the first iPhone, one of its most amazing features was the ability to activate the device at home, through iTunes, without AT&T’s involvement (in the U.S.).

Extending that concept to allow users to choose their network is not only an obvious extension of that concept, it’s the kind of thing that benefits Apple immensely by maintaining even more control over the user experience than the company already has. It’s also the kind of thing that only Apple is likely to be able to get away with any time soon, in terms of both carrier relations and technology.

Apple changed the rules by which a handset maker dealt with a carrier, and is so far the only company to have successfully done so. In addition, Apple’s total control over the hardware and software make it uniquely positioned to accomplish such a goal seamlessly, and that’s not likely to change any time soon.

As far as mainstream rumors of Apple products go, Bloomberg’s piece seems well-informed and is likely accurate, as far as that goes. It’s important to emphasize, however, that even if Apple is working on everything Bloomberg’s source said it is, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll see those products and technologies delivered to market.

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Comments

mhikl

Apple?s been down this road before with the iPod. It is time to Unleash the Phones and Pads of War, Apple. The stage is set to again show us what you can do.

Not everyone wants or needs an iPhone in its present incarnation as a smart phone. Do a simple iPhone and everything between it and the smart iPhone. Dito with the iPad. Then get on with your next world changing idea.

Price, variety, quality and ideas are your ammunition. Open your armoury and begin.

Lee Dronick

Any minute now someone will announce that they are working a Zippo Lighter sized Android phone.

Anonymous Coward

@mhikl:

Except the viability of the iPod as a software platform was never a concern. You may or may not have noticed that the “iPod Click Wheel Games” are all but forgotten a mere four years after they were introduced. The core functionality of the iPod could always be retained in a smaller, cheaper box, or even one without a screen. Not so with an iPhone or iPad. Reducing display size, for instance, would make it impossible to run a great deal of the currently available apps - and the “killer app” for the iPad, after all, *is* the App Store.

There is no good reason for Apple to make a “low-end” iPhone or iPad.

mrmwebmax

+

I agree with Anonymous Coward. App developers love the iPhone because it’s not fragmented like Android. If Apple were to make a smaller iPhone with less features, they run the risk of fragmenting the platform. I can’t see Steve ever greenlighting such an idea.

That said, if they can make a smaller iPhone that runs every app just as well as the iPhone 4—and if any company can do it, it’s Apple—then it’s possible such a product might see the light of day.

Lee Dronick

That said, if they can make a smaller iPhone that runs every app just as well as the iPhone 4?and if any company can do it, it?s Apple?then it?s possible such a product might see the light of day.

I would think that they could miniaturize the hardware, but at a certain size it becomes too hard to use, particularly the apps. Maybe just an iPhone with a few apps such as Address Book.

Jim

Remember the razr? yeah, that was a phone.

mhikl

There is no good reason for Apple to make a ?low-end? iPhone or iPad.

(Quick addendum: viability was a concern. The first iPod was not a run away success.)

Click wheel games had their place and time. Life and ideas and thinking skills evolve. Look at the evolution of all members of the iPod family from the shuffle to the iPod touch, all laterally designed. (While iPod brainstorming was going on and ideas where being tossed- music, pics, games (hey, mini applications), calendar, notes (hey, mini browser- hey internet). & so it goes . .  .

I?m going to sound like a broken record but Apple was working on the iPad before the iPhone and before the iPod touch ever saw the light of day. That is now eons ago. Compare the fact that the few other companies attempting to produce tablet/slate/pads sputtered about and couldn?t think beyond the computers of the past century; Palm, Apple?s Newton and M$ come to mind. Stylus, tiny finger or thumb keyboards and speech. All this comes from minds designed or trained for critical thinking. Then Steve untethered the MP3 player from current thought trends and the iPod came to fruition and then the iPad concept revolutionized what all others were failing to imagine.

Apple could cover all avenues with the iPhone and iPad, as they did with the iPod, leaving little territory for the opposition. Sort of the napalm of tech. Step back and take a look at the iPod lineage. Plain Jane Shuffle to iPod Touch seems to covers every possible incarnation. (Hey, the world consumes a lot of phones.)

Now is the time of the iPad.
I drew out the iPad at full size and then a smaller version at 80% (7.65x5.98). Didn?t look too bad. The length of an 80% iPad is about the same as the width of the the present unit. Over time I would suspect the boarders of the iPad would shrink substantially so the iPad(s) would become smaller, though keeping the same area(s) of interactive screen. Of course the smaller screen would demand a third set of apps. Or possibly apps will eventually become auto-sensing and therefore autosizing, varying to fit the screen depending on which iProduct they are on adding or subtracting bits. Apple likes integration, simplification: Neat and Tidy, Out with Clutter might be Steve?s mantra.

I doubt if the iPad would ever evolve larger, but I could see, and have read about the MBA becoming a hybrid adding multitouch whilst keeping the keyboard. There could continue to be two screen sizes. Apple is working on price while keeping quality. Dell pulled their MBA copy when Apple drastically dropped price. This is another area in which Apple is going to squeeze the opposition. The others are build quality, integration, options, apps, variety, simplification, intuitiveness, the stores, original devices.

So how could the iPad vary:
1. by camera: none, one, or two, video; flash; resolution.
2. 3/4G or not to be
3.  ram 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256 GB (or greater)
4. screen resolution
5. Options for youth to toothless

6., 7., 8., fill in the blanks

9., . . . . only Apple knows and shows

Haven?t even touched on Apple TV2 and how it might relate.

There seems to be a continuum in thinking.
Some people are lateral thinkers. Steve is certainly the king in this spirit. Others are critical thinkers more concerned with values and finding errors which includes the majority of others and it why they are so design challenged.

Where does your comfort level sit on the continuum?

mhikl

Any minute someone will announce . . . a Zippo Lighter

Good idea, Sir Harry. Some people like to chat while running round in a speedo.

Lee Dronick

Some people like to chat while running round in a speedo.

My snark was directed at the Android phone copycats. But, yeah with a Nano size iPhone you could clip it to the Speedo or onto a lanyard for us naturists. smile

Rumor, it is all rumor at this time. Sometimes I think that there is a random rumor generator for Apple products.

mhikl

clip it to the Speedo

Bin waiting for your reply Sir.
Or, when not in use Bosco might use it to enhance the package.

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