iPhone, 3G and battery life

The rumours are getting ever louder. The new version of iPhone is coming out and it has 3G capabilities.

Many have expressed their concerns that this will seriously affect the iPhone’s already relatively short battery life time. 3G chipsets certainly drain the batteries faster than 2 or 2.5G (i.e. GSM, GPRS and EDGE) chips. Most 3G handsets – regardless of the brand – have short battery life compared to their lower generation counterparts and most 3G handset owners are familiar with their radiating heat, especially during heavy data – or even just voice – usage.

There have been talks about new OLED displays which would decrease the battery usage by the other main power sucker – the display – and then leave some room for added power consumption from the 3G chipset. And obviously the new iPhone’s battery won’t be inferior to the current model’s.

Before the first version of the iPhone came out, I made a few predictions that turned out to be pretty accurate, so I’ll give it another shot: During a chat with my colleague – Chad Nordby – last week, we came across another method to dramatically increase the battery life: Turn 3G on only when high bandwidth is needed.

The phone would stay on the 2G network during normal operations. There is no need to drain the battery on UMTS (i.e. 3G) communications while idly waiting for a call. When the user activates the device, 3G could be turned on and ready for your high-speed browsing – very much the same way as is currently done for the WiFi capabilities. The same might also work for background communication – 3G could be turned on to fetch large payloads, such as a big email attachment, but minor status updates and mail checks could stay on the EDGE network.

The handover technology from 2G to 3G (or technically from GSM to UMTS) networks is already there and works quite well. When you’re drive out of 3G coverage, talking on the phone, even the phonecall is handed from one technology to another instantaneously without dropping the call.

So there’s nothing stopping them, and as such a small fraction of time is spent on usage of data services anyway (compared to idle time) this would fully address the battery concerns. So it is my prediction the new iPhone will work this way. Obviously any handset manufacturer could use this method, but Apple is probably the only one crazy enough to actually be thinking on these notes.

The sheep might catch on later 🙂

Google, gPhone and the disruptive business model

gPhone Rumors about Google’s upcoming mobile phone – dubbed gPhone – are becoming ever louder.

If you thought Apple’s iPhone business model was disruptive for the wireless industry (demanding 10% of the operator’s revenues from iPhone users – voice and data) – just you wait for Google entering the scene.

There’s not much confirmed information on the device, let alone the business case, but judging from how Google usually goes about, here’s my prediction:

gPhone will not be SIM locked like the iPhone, but rather accept SIM cards from any mobile provider. It will have a WiFi connection and an integrated gTalk client. Whenever the phone is in WiFi coverage, it will use VoIP, thereby only using the mobile operator’s network if no other connection is available. Even for those, I predict that Google will quickly open local VoIP gateway numbers in all major markets, thereby ensuring that the cost of any call made on the gPhone will be limited to a call to a local landline at the most.

All value added services will be ad supported, and as such free to the user. No doubt Google Search, Gmail, Google Maps and other prime Google services will be nicely integrated, giving Google lots of valuable eyeballs and thereby ad revenues.

This will drive gPhone owners to mobile networks offering the lowest fixed monthly prices and data plans, making the operator as dumb a pipe as possible for now.

In a longer run, Google’s interest in the 700MHz auction in the US furthermore opens the possibility that traditional wireless operators could over time be cut out of the value chain altogether.

Oh man, this is going to be one fierce battle!

iPhone: APIs, 3G and “nothing new”

iPhoneNews flash: iPhone is coming out on Friday!

(oh – you knew?)

I’ve been moaning about it (in Icelandic) since it was only a patent and do not doubt that it will be a major success.

In my evangelism since I’ve heard three main things criticized:

  1. It’s not a 3G phone
  2. It doesn’t allow 3rd party applications
  3. Other phones have all the same features

…and then of course the price. But who wouldn’t price their products high with this kind of anticipation? AT&T has even added an activation fee and the subscription plan announced today is not exactly cheap either. They will still be stressed to keep up with demand. The first couple of million buyers don’t even think about the price.

As for 3G, it’s a perfectly rational decision not to support 3G for the initial US version. AT&T’s 3G coverage (and in the States in general) is spotty and the fact that the iPhone (opposed to most other phones with WiFi support) automatically logs on to open and known WiFi networks for internet connectivity should actually make the experience quite impressive most of the time. Many of us spend most of our time either in the office or at home, and apart from that, EDGE is actually not too bad. It would actually not surprise me if Apple still had an extra card up it’s sleeve, using HTTP compression technology to speed up the downloads. The rumors that the European version will support 3G (and not be released until late Q1 or even Q2 next year) are getting louder and make perfect sense.

The lack of API suggests to me that Apple is trying to drive 3rd party development to use the integrated Safari browser instead. Keep in mind that this is a fully compatible XHTML/Javascript browser. Just look at some of the things that people have been doing with AJAX in the past 24 months or so. It’s possible to write pretty much any end-user application you can think of that way – and it keeps the applications securely isolated from the phone’s OS – which in my mind is a half-decent excuse by Jobs for not having an API. By supporting URI schemes like tel or wtai, they could allow calls to be set up directly from such applications, and by adding a couple of custom tags, schemas and/or javascript calls that would give access to things such as the address book and the maps. My money is on that being what Jobs was referring to here (see Q&A session). I believe my theory is further supported by Apple’s release of Safari for Windows, guessing that Jobs is buying into predictions that browsers are replacing operating systems as the most important software on any device.

Finally: Yes you can find all the features of iPhone in other phones. You might even find a single phone that sports almost all of them. But if you think the game is about that – you’re totally lost. Apple has three things that combined make them unique:

  • Brand and marketing muscle (including the loyal user community)
  • Hip designers
  • A dedication to and nose for superior usability – that means that people will actually use all those fancy features

This is what separates the iPhone from the rest.

In short: Apple is not making any rash mistakes. Any product design decision regarding the iPhone is taken either to make it a better product or for Apple’s benefit in their quest for the throne of IT.

iPhone therefore iAm

Ég skrifaði í haust um orðróminn sem hefur gengið undanfarið hálft ár eða svo um nýja símann og sjónvarpsgræjuna frá Apple.

Á þriðjudaginn gerðist það svo. Steve Jobs steig fram á sviðið af sinni alkunnu snilld og heillaði tækniheiminn upp úr skónum. Hamagangurinn í kjölfarið er svo mikill að AppleTV (sem gekk undir vinnuheitinu iTV) hefur nánast týnst í umræðunni. Sjálfur held ég að það sú græja sé næstum jafn kollvarpandi og iPhone.

En samt, bara næstum…

iPhone er græjan sem ég held að við tölvunördarnir höfum flestir látið okkur dreyma um í nokkur ár. Hún sameinar iPod, síma og nettengda lófatölvu í lítið, nett og ótrúlega fallegt tæki. Tengist bæði þráðlausum staðarnetum og gegnum GPRS (3G útgáfan kemur síðar). Keyrir MacOS X. Öllu stjórnað með næmum snertiskjá með hærri upplausn en áður hefur þekkst – og þeir lofa m.a.s. mjög góðum batterí tíma (5 tímar í tali, 16 tímar í tónlistarspilun)! Ég get varla beðið. Í júní verður hægt að fá þessa græju í Bandaríkjunum og í haust í Evrópu.

AppleTV verður hægt að fá strax í febrúar – þannig að það verður að duga í bili að fikta bara í henni 😉

Ég mæli með að fólk kíki á keynote-ið hans Jobs þar sem þetta er allt kynnt til sögunnar. Maðurinn er frábær show-maður og vídeóið er þess virði fyrir það eitt. Ég ætlaði niðrúr sófanum þegar hann sýndi “Merge calls” – fídusinn (teaser).

Það er í rauninni ýmislegt að segja í stóru samhengi hlutanna um þessa innkomu Apple á fjarskipta- og lófatölvumarkaðinn, en ég ætla að geyma það – ég er aðeins að melta þetta allt. Tek það kannski í tæknispánni fyrir 2007 sem ég er að setja saman. Sú fyrir 2006 er hér – ég reyndist nú bara nokkuð sannspár…