Could iPhone 3.1 surface at Apple event?

My estimable colleague Chris Breen has already run down for you a list of likely music-related developments that we might see at next week’s “Rock ‘n Roll” Apple event: a new version of the iPod touch, an updated iTunes, and perhaps even iPod models souped up with cameras. I find myself inclined to agree with the follicularly prodigious Mr. Breen, especially given Apple’s history of iPod events. But what of the iPod’s half-sibling and partner-in-crime, the iPhone? Will it get to share in the spotlight, or will it be relegated to a backstage role?

After all, not only is the iPhone an iPod in its own right, but its software provides the basis for the next-generation of Apple’s media players—namely, the iPod touch. While I wouldn’t put my hard-earned paycheck on the suggestion that Wednesday’s event will see any new iPhone hardware, I think there’s a better-than-even chance that the Apple’s newest wunderkind will get a tip of the hat in the form of a software update.

“But it’s an iPod event!” the masses cry. “It’s about rock and roll! The Beatles! The Rolling Stones!” I hear you, my friends, but this isn’t all wild-eyed flights of fancy—there is precedent to call upon. Apple used last year’s event to announce the iPhone 2.1 update, which fixed a number of nagging problems with the 2.0 release, which Apple put out in July 2008.

This year bears an uncanny resemblance to that timeline: Apple released iPhone 3.0 in June, and since then we’ve seen just a single minor update, iPhone 3.0.1, which patched a security vulnerability. Whispers of iPhone 3.1 peaked back in July, but that revision has yet to see the light of day. Wednesday’s venue seems like perfect timing.

Should iPhone 3.1 garner some stage time, what might we expect from the update? Rumors suggest a number of new features, including support for Voice Control over Bluetooth headsets, non-destructive editing of video clips, and the introduction of fraud protection for Safari. The usual collection of bug fixes and tweaks are also probable—holding your breath for any huge marquee features, however, is likely to lead to a case of hypoxaemia.

Of course, this is all speculation, based on little more than reading the leaves at the bottom of this morning’s cup of English Breakfast. Perhaps iPhone 3.1 won’t be enough to merit the attention of whomever takes the stage next week, but it seems a good a time as any. Even if it doesn’t make an appearance, I’d wager we’ll see the update sooner rather than later.

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