Now that rumors of an Apple tablet have manifested themselves in the iPad, speculation about the next iteration of the iPhone can begin in earnest. In a research note published today, Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty offers a few thoughts on what a successor to the iPhone 3GS might look like.
"We expect Apple to launch new iPhones in June that offer both a lower total cost of ownership and new functionality, potentially including gesture-based technology," she wrote in a note to clients today. "As we've highlighted in the past, the cost of device-plus-service plan is currently the biggest barrier to incremental demand in both mature markets like the US and emerging markets like China."
Now, when Apple introduced the 3GS in 2009, it dropped the price of the iPhone 3G to $99, so it seems reasonable to expect the company to follow a similar pattern when it introduces a new iPhone. Might the price of the new device itself also be lower than expected? Perhaps. Certainly the fact that Apple was able to bring the iPad to market at $499 suggests it's possible.
More intriguing than these ruminations on price, however, is Huberty's mention of new "gesture-based technology." The analyst doesn't offer any details on what this might be, but presumably she's referring to advances disclosed in some recent Apple patent filings.
Among the possibilities here: A touch-sensitive bezel that would turn the outer edges of the device into intelligent "sense lines" that give users quick and easy access to their favorite applications, and some camera-based swipe controls that offer one-handed control over a variety of iPhone functions.
Here's a description of the latter from Patently Apple, which does a far better job explaining these things than I ever could.
[This] patent reveals yet another innovative concept that is designed to help users control their incoming calls and voicemail by simply swiping their finger over the external camera lens. It will control rewinding and fast forwarding voicemail. In addition, the new methodology will also enhance one handed navigation of Web pages, documents, a contact list or your iTunes library by simply swiping the camera lens in different swiping motion combinations. In the future, the iPad may be able to take advantage of this feature if the camera is positioned correctly. This would theoretically allow a user to simply flick a finger over the camera lens to turn the page of a book or scroll a webpage without ever having to move your hand.
Sounds pretty slick, yeah? Certainly, a feature like this would take smartphone navigation to a new level. Were it to be included in a next-generation iPhone along with a five-megapixel camera, LED flash, and video chat support that's rumored--well, Apple might not need the lower price point as Huberty suggests to juice demand for the device.