Here’s a little known fact about the amazing iPhone phenomenon: In the days since its release, the iPhone has reportedly sold well over 500,000 units. Astonishingly, there have been over 500,000 blog posts on the iPhone as well. Yes, that’s right, one blog post for each iPhone sold! But that’s not the amazing part. The truly surprising thing about all of the iPhone hype is that so little of the commentary has focused on the fact that we’re finally getting a good look at the long awaited next-generation iPod.
The iPhone is clearly a glimpse of what the iPod will look like in the not to distant future. There’s a reason why Steve Jobs has been calling the iPhone “the best iPod ever“. The problem, of course, is that the iPhone costs a fortune and requires a long term contract with AT&T. For most music lovers looking for an updated iPod, the price and service requirements are a deal-breaker.
But what if Apple were to produce an iPhone without the phone? There’s reason to believe that’s exactly what the next iPod will be. The current iPod has not had a significant upgrade in a while. When Apple finally refreshes the iPod product line here are some reasonable assumptions of what we can expect:
- Same screen size and technology as the iPhone. We’re now well into the era of the so-called “video iPod”. It’s generally acknowledged that the current video iPod is not the real video iPod, but rather a transitional device designed to fill a gap in the Apple product line until the real thing comes along. The iPhone certainly looks much closer to what we would expect a true video iPod to look like. From the screen size, to the automatic orientation adjustments, you can expect the next line of full-sized iPods to look, and work, a lot like the iPhone.
- Same touch screen interface at the iPhone. Could the current iPod interface be any more tired? Seriously, even the Zune interface looks good by comparison. The iPod interface is due for an upgrade and there’s no reason why the next iPod shouldn’t have many of the same features the iPhone has, including cover-flow, a touch screen, and gestures. Also, it really wouldn’t make much sense for Apple to have two separate interfaces for their portable devices. By using a common interface between the iPhone and the iPod, Apple could consolidate its development efforts and train users to expect a common interface. iPod users might be more inclined to upgrade to an iPhone because of the familiar interface (well, that and the fact that they want to make phone calls).
- The same operating system as the iPhone. If the next iPod has the same general interface as the iPhone it would only make sense that it would also use the same operating system. The iPhone is powered by a version of Mac OS X. This would open up the possibility that the iPod could morph into something of a full-featured personal information manager. The iPod has always had the ability to hold contact information and notes, but how amazing would it be if it could actually sync with your address book and calendar, and provide a usable interface to that information. A full featured operating system would open up a number of possible applications and uses for the iPod — for example, it could become a usable ebook reader.
It seems perfectly reasonable to assume that all of these features will be included in the next iPod. It would be a real surprise if any of these predictions didn’t come to pass. What isn’t known is whether or not the next iPod will include WiFi and the Safari web browser.
The general consensus among sites that have been reporting on the 6th generation iPod release this week is that the device won’t include WiFi. But that assumption just doesn’t make sense. Why wouldn’t the next iPod have WiFi?
On the one hand it’s been suggested that Apple wouldn’t risk cannibalizing the sales of iPhones, on the other hand, according to an Ars Technical article, Jobs has indicated that if there’s going to be cannibalization of Apple it might as well be by Apple.
AT&T probably wouldn’t be very happy about an iPhone without the phone — they’ve got a five year deal with Apple to be the exclusive iPhone carrier. Although, there’s not much AT&T can do to prevent Apple from releasing an iPod with WiFi capabilities and no phone. After all, it’s a media player, not a phone.
The problem is that an Internet connected iPod will quickly become a general purpose communication device. It’s only a matter of time before Apple introduces iChat for the iPod. That’s probably the point where AT&T will start talking with their attorneys.
Then there’s the Zune factor. Remember the poor Zune? WiFi was the only feature advantage the Zune held over the iPod — crippled as that feature ultimately was when the product was finally released. Microsoft is reportedly working on a second generation Zune that will undoubtedly include WiFi. It’s only a matter of time before Microsoft gets the Zune right. Apple can’t risk releasing the next iPod without WiFi.
Lots of people have iPods — over 100 million have been sold to date. The next iPod has to be so truly amazing that even people who own a half dozen iPods will look at it and say, “I want one of those”. An iPod with WiFi and Safari would be just such a device.