IPhone 5: LTE? NFC? Natural Language Voice Interface?
With the unveiling of the next iteration of the iPhone likely postponed until after WWDC, speculation has begun in earnest about what sort of enhancements Apple’s building into it.
On the software side, there’s the possibility of the natural language voice interface and navigation service I mentioned here earlier this month. Last April, Apple acquired Siri, developer of a virtual personal assistant supported by speech recognition, natural language processing and semantic Web search. (see video below). And in 2009 it purchased PlaceBase, a mapping outfit that specialized in enhancing maps with private and public data sets. Weave elements of those two acquisitions together and give them a 505,000-square-foot data center as a back-end and you’ve got a pretty compelling offering.
But what about the hardware side? An improved camera seems certain, as does a bigger screen and a faster chip. Support for near field communication (NFC), which would enable mobile payments through iTunes, is also a rumored feature, as is an increase to 64GB of internal memory. And, increasingly, it seems like an LTE chipset will be included as well. As I noted here Monday, a later-than-usual iPhone unveiling dovetails nicely with the expected launch of AT&T’s LTE network (Verizon’s is already up and running). It also would appear to coincide with the debut of an updated Qualcomm LTE chip.
“We believe Apple wants its next phone to be LTE capable and have a chipset compatible with both AT&T and VZ (with the LTE capability on AT&T turned on once their network is ready),” says Jeffries analyst Peter Misek. “Also, we believe the iPhone 5 could contain new chips from Qualcomm incorporating GPS and WiFi on the same chip (and in the future the socket could support Bluetooth and NFC).”
Misek, incidentally, is betting on a second-half 2011 launch for pretty much all the reasons cited above. “Our checks indicate Apple is aiming for a significant step forward with a strong focus on integrating cloud services into the operating system,” he concludes. “We believe this additional functionality is taking longer to incorporate than expected, leading to the next iOS launch being later this summer or fall.”