next to cell phone
4G – The next 4G cell phone technology is called Long Term Evolution (LTE). The 3GPP standards organization hasn’t finished the standard yet, but it is near completion and there are many of test equipment and infrastructure vendors working on new hardware and software to support it already. No doubt handsets and carrier service is still years away, no earlier than 2010 probably. So no 4G iPhone yet.
A cdma2000 version? Not likely in my opinion. The world will be going to LTE for 4G anyway, so it seems like a real diversion to add cdma2000 and all the related technologies that Verizon, Sprint Nextel and Alltel support.
802.11n – This is the latest generation of Wi-Fi. It can deliver over 100 Mb/s over the typical 300 foot range. But it does require the use of MIMO. That means at least two antennas—not likely in a handset—although someone will figure out how to do this. 802.11g gives up to 54 Mb/s now so who needs to be faster than that anyway? So, no 802.11n.
Bluetooth – Most handsets use Bluetooth for strictly the wireless headset. But the new low power version could find its way into the iPhone. A potential upgrade.
Near Field Communications – NFC is that slow-speed data technology that lets your cell phone act like a credit card with a chip in it. It works like RFID and is designed to replace your credit card by just touching a reader or display that can download stuff. It will be used to pay for tickets, parking, trains, and other services. This is a popular feature that will eventually be widely adopted as soon as the infrastructure is in place to make it useful. A definite possibility.
VoWLAN – Voice over IP (VoIP) is still growing in popularity not only in wired systems but also in WLANs. You can already buy a dual-mode phone that switches seamlessly from cellular to VoWi-Fi as you move from outdoors into the office or home where an 802.11 access point takes over, or vice versa. A possibility, but not likely in my opinion.
WiMAX – The high-speed wireless broadband technology is certainly ready for prime time but like all other wireless services it is just taking time to sort out the products, services, and business models. Some say it is DOA while others say it will find its profitable niche. I am in that later group. It is expected that WiMAX will show up on laptops first. Some even say there will be WiMAX handsets. Maybe. Remember, WiMAX uses OFDMA like LTE so the two technologies will compete to some extent. Most cellular carriers have already committed to LTE, even those who now offer the cdma2000 versions of spread spectrum. WiMAX in an iPhone? I doubt it at least not for the 3.0 version.
Cell phone TV – I am talking here about over the air broadcast TV and not TV delivered over the network. The DVB-H version is popular in Europe and some phones already do incorporate it. In the US, Qualcomm’s MediaFLO has been adopted as the mobile broadcast TV standard. Stations are being built and services sorted out. A number of IC vendors already offer suitable single-chip TV receivers for cell phones using the Media FLO standard based on OFDM. A lower resolution version of the U.S.’s HDTV standard called ATSC is now being developed and could appear in cell phones as early as next year. This will let cell phones receive regular U.S. digital TV from existing TV stations . . . FREE. If that happens, the MediaFLO broadcasts will have major competition; they may die before getting off to a good start if the subscription price is too high or if the content is marginal. I say the next iPhone will have a broadcast TV receiver.
FM radio – Lots of cell phones have an FM radio inside. This is cheap and easy to do but I doubt Apple will do it. Too much free competition to the iPod and iTunes. It won’t happen.