Don't hold your breath waiting for a 3G iPhone

Don Reisinger thinks a 3G iPhone is on its way to the United States, but doesn't think it'll happen this year. That said, he does think Europe and Asia will have one soon.

Among the many complaints I have about the iPhone, 3G certainly sits atop the list. Instead of allowing me to surf around the Web at blazing speeds, Apple must have thought that a 3G device just wasn't good enough for me at this point and I would need to break into the iPhone world with a dog slow cell phone.

Thanks for looking out for me, Apple!

But as sales of the iPhone start to slow and the chances of Steve Jobs hitting the 10 million units sold mark dwindle, Apple is looking for ways to turn things around. And according to one report from Citibank, a 3G iPhone could be all the company needs to do just that.

Of course, it's looking more and more like the US won't be invited to that party.

So why do I sound so sure that the 3G iPhone, although it will come to the US eventually, won't be the first place it's released? Simple really -- pure business sense.

As it stands, the iPhone isn't selling nearly as well as Apple would like in Europe and the main reason is its lack of 3G support. Unlike the US where some of us are spoiled on faster speeds, the Europeans take it for granted. In fact, 3G speeds are so ubiquitous there that some UK folks I spoke with that said they wouldn't consider buying an iPhone even if it was free because of its lesser capabilities.

Of course, Citibank already agrees with my assertion and thinks Apple is shooting itself in the foot by not supporting 3G in Europe.

"We believe that lack of 3G has been a significant headwind for iPhone in Europe where 3G is already pervasive," the firm said.

According to Citibank, Apple plans on releasing a 3G iPhone to Europe and Asia by the end of the year, but a US launch was left out of that discussion. Of course, some thought it was all a ploy on Apple's part and the iPhone in the US would run on the 700MHz spectrum, but that's ludicrous. Can it happen eventually? Sure. But to say that it'll happen anytime soon is just wrong.

Not only has AT&T set the plans in motion to expand its 3G network going forward, it doesn't make sense at this point for Apple to develop devices with differing connection opportunities. Beyond that, how will AT&T regulate it and when will the infrastructure be put into place so it can happen?

So what's the most likely scenario? Apple will release a 3G iPhone to Europe and Asia by the end of the year, just as Citibank reported. But unfortunately for us, it won't happen nearly as soon here in the States.

As it stands, Apple is perfectly happy offering an EDGE iPhone to Americans and given the issue of battery life that has yet to be circumvented, the company will be unwilling to sacrifice usability for faster speeds.

Beyond that, only a small subsection of iPhone owners even care that their cell phone isn't on a 3G network in the United States, so there's really no impetus for Apple to move with haste.

Of course, that notion is thrown out the window in Europe. In a continent where people have come to expect 3G, the iPhone looks outdated; something that's not even close to the public perception in the United States. Realizing this, Apple will need to move fast and do what it can to turn things around before its cell phone is relegated to the junk bin before it even had a chance to gain a strong foothold on the other side of the pond.

If you ask me, here's what the real 3G iPhone release calendar will look like:

US: First quarter 2009

Europe: Summer 2008

Asia: Late 2008

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About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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