InformationWeek's Alex Wolfe dug through an Apple patent filing Monday and found that the company may be working on a videoconferencing feature for the iPhone.
According to Wolfe, the patent provides "proof...that Apple's thought through what it needs to do to make the iPhone video-recording and -conferencing capable." He then goes on to make the bold prediction that "we will see these features in the third-generation iPhone."
First off, I should note that companies file patent ideas all the time and usually, nothing comes of them. More often than not, patent filings are a way to cover the company just in case it decides to release the feature or stop its competitors that may try to offer it themselves. So, I'm less certain than Wolfe that videoconferencing will be made available in the third-generation of the iPhone.
But if videoconferencing does come to the next-gen iPhone, should we be excited? More importantly, will it mean that Apple will kick another improvement, like copy and paste, from the next iPhone to get videoconferencing into it?
I know both could probably be added to the device at the same time, but if we were forced to choose, which would we pick?
Videoconferencing would be a neat addition to the next-gen iPhone. Parents who travel would be able to see their kids when they call home and it would probably help Apple sell phones. After all, who wouldn't want to see their friends or family members when they call?
Videoconferencing also satisfies a common issue many iPhone owners (including myself) have with their mobile phone: it doesn't record video. If Apple adds videoconferencing, you can bet that camcorder functionality will be included.
But to say that videoconferencing would make perfect sense in the next version of the iPhone doesn't ring true to me. AT&T's 3G network isn't nearly as robust as it could be. If I witness lag issues on Skype and iChat over my cable broadband connection, can I really expect a better experience with my iPhone over 3G? I don't think so.
I'm also suspect of the cost of the prospective iPhone. Right now, the iPhone has a forward-facing camera to capture stills. If videoconferencing makes its way to the new iPhone, it would require a camcorder pointing out from the screen. And since videoconferencing would make users desire video recording even more, it wouldn't surprise me if Apple added another camcorder to capture video. Two camcorders could be expensive.
Copy and paste
Copy and paste is my most desired addition to the iPhone. Period. I don't necessarily care about videoconferencing if it doesn't work well, but I want to be able to copy some text or a URL and paste it elsewhere on my iPhone. I don't think that's asking much.
But the main issue with copy and paste is that it probably won't sell more iPhones. I'm sure there's someone who's waiting for that feature, but the vast majority of people probably don't look at copy and paste as a reason to buy an iPhone. (By the way, the third-party workarounds don't provide enough value to be considered a true copy and paste feature.)
I've waited long enough for copy and paste on my iPhone and I think it only makes sense if it's added to the next-gen device. But I'm still not sold on videoconferencing. If Apple adds it in, I'll try it out, but I'm suspect of its implementation. We'll see.
We just don't know, unfortunately, what's coming in the next version of the iPhone. Only one thing is certain: I better see copy and paste.