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Next iPod Touch may be extremely wireless

Reports suggest that the third-generation iPod Touch will include wireless technologies such as 802.11n, Bluetooth, and FM transmission.

As programmers continue to pick apart the code underlying Apple's iPhone 3.0 OS, details are surfacing that point to possible new hardware features for both the iPhone and iPod Touch. One of the first details unearthed from the code is the addition of stereo Bluetooth-audio streaming--a feature that current (second-generation) iPhone and iPod Touch owners will be able to take advantage of once the new OS is available this summer.

Apple iPod Touch
The Apple iPod Touch (second generation). Corinne Schulze/CNET

Of course, some new features will be available on the next generation of the iPod and iPhone hardware only (ain't that always the way?). Case in point: rumors of high-speed 802.11n Wi-Fi capabilities, as well as FM radio transmission. The combination of stereo Bluetooth, improved Wi-Fi speeds, and short-range FM transmission, are compelling and competitive features on a phone, but they'll really put the iPod Touch in a class of its own when it comes to portable media players.

Not everyone will be thrilled with the changes. Accessory manufacturers such as Belkin, Griffin, and DLO, have been churning out iPod-compatible FM transmitters for years. If integrated FM transmission really does come to the iPod Touch (and perhaps other iPod models down the line), the effect could mean the end of stalwart products like the iTrip. There's always a chance that Apple will require users to purchase FM transmitter Apps to enable the functionality (just like they did with voice recording), in which case third parties can still get a cut. With the playing field leveled, however, a Griffin-branded FM transmitter App faces the same chances at being downloaded as a free App from a rogue upstart. I'm drifting into a speculation tangent here, but needless to say, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Cheer up, Griffin. FM transmitters like the iTrip may be on their way out, but we'll always need in-car charging adapters.

As for Wi-Fi speeds, the current iPhone and iPod Touch models support 802.11a networks (5GHz), or 802.11b/g networks (2.4GHz), which are becoming increasingly common on portable devices (Zune, PSP). Apple already includes 802.11n support on its Macbooks and AirPort Base Stations, so it's a natural move to add it to the iPhone and Touch. The increase in speed should be noticeable, provided you're on a Wi-Fi network that supports the 802.11n standard. Those of us still surfing on common b and g routers will still be getting the same old Wi-Fi speeds, though. In fact, since lots of people are still in the dark about 802.11n and dual-band routers, I expect there will be an opportunity for Apple to market their latest dual-band Airport Extreme Base Station as a must-have accessory for every iPhone and iPod Touch user.

If the iPod Touch is really to become the mobile-gaming platform Apple wants it to be, the boost in Wi-Fi speeds may open up some interesting gaming possibilities. Specifically, online multiplayer games may become more viable, as actions between players would be communicated with less latency.

Online video streaming and downloads will also benefit from the possible increase in Wi-Fi speed. Common gripes such as download speed, video quality, and streaming bandwidth would all be eased with a little 802.11n thrown in the mix.

So what do you guys think? Are any of these rumored wireless technologies enough to sway you to the next-generation iPod Touch or iPhone? What else could Apple throw in to sweeten the deal (am I the only one who wants a camera on the Touch)? Share some feedback in the comments section.

Apple iPod Touch second generation