If there is one defining characteristic of the Apple community, it’s the proliferation of sketchily sourced and usually mistaken—but nonetheless fascinating—rumors of upcoming products from the tight-lipped company. Since the iPhone is the Apple's golden goose right now, it’s no surprise that it also commands the largest share of the aforementioned scuttlebutt.
If the latest crop of speculation is to be believed, the next-generation iPhone (unofficially dubbed “iPhone 4G” or “iPhone 3.0”) will have pretty much every new feature under the sun: a 3.2-megapixel camera will support video recording; there will be rudimentary video-editing software included; support for 802.11n Wi-Fi networking; and—get this—a built-in FM radio. Let's dive a little deeper into all this rumor and hearsay.
The first report comes from Hans Wu of DigiTimes who claims that, according to super-secret “market sources,” Chinese manufacturer OmniVision has received bulk orders from Apple for 3.2-megapixel CMOS image sensors to be included in the next-generation iPhone. OmniVision also apparently secured a separate batch of orders for 5-megapixel sensors for an undisclosed product.
That Apple is interested in integrating all those CMOS sensors into some device (or devices, as the case may be) seems to be supported by several camera-related job postings on Apple’s Job Opportunities page. Spotted by Web site Apple iPhone Apps, the page lists open positions at Apple for Camera Design Engineers, a Camera Project Manager, and a Camera Validation Engineer. Although this doesn’t confirm what kind of cameras will be in Apple's future devices, it does suggest that the company is taking seriously the need to beef up its capabilities in that department.
The next rumor is brought to you by Austrian site Benm.at, which claims to have uncovered hints of an upcoming video-editing application among the resource files in the iPhone OS 3.0 beta. The "evidence" in question is a folder with several small images that may eventually form user-interface elements of an editing program. Given the current iPhone's lack of support for video-recording, it suggests either a feature of some future device running the iPhone OS or perhaps the ability to edit video brought in from other sources (iTunes syncing? YouTube?).
Meanwhile, AppleInsider thinks that wireless radio component specifications in iPhone OS 3.0 beta mean an upgrade to newer Broadcom chips in future models of the iPod touch and iPhone. Those would potentially support, among other features, low-power 802.11n Wi-Fi networking on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. This sounds like the most plausible of all the rumors mentioned here: even though Wi-Fi is still a big power hog, Apple's been slowly but surely transitioning all of its Wi-Fi-capable hardware to 802.11n over the last year or two. Having the iPhone follow in those footsteps makes sense, even if it may be impractical in the short run.
But just as surely as dawn follows the darkest hour of night, the wackiest and craziest rumors must follow the most believable. In a report published on 9 to 5 Mac, Cleve Nettles points out that the Broadcom chips in question also have a built-in FM radio that is capable of both receiving and sending signals on the FM band.
Although Apple might decide to take this opportunity to build in capabilities to integrate your iPhone or iPod touch with your car stereo, even that's doubtful, given the company's track record. The idea that Apple—at this late date—might finally build an FM radio into an iPhone seems a bit ridiculous. But maybe the legions who have demanded this feature over the years will finally get their due.
Of course, we hardly need remind you that all rumors need to be taken with a shaker full of salt; it seems just as likely that Steve Wozniak will learn how to shake a leg with finesse. Still, none of the rumors mentioned here are nearly as outlandish as Apple rumors often tend to be (super-powered netbooks that can do everything short of fixing the world's economic crisis, anyone?). Whether or not they turn out to be true, indulging in a little speculation never hurt anybody. What say you, dear readers—will we see an iRadio app from Apple on the home screens of our iPhones anytime soon?