Report: Apple Developing Smaller iPhones, Dual-Band Tech

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.