John writes that an “iPhone Lite”-type device is likely to exist within the next year or so, based on the chronology and segmentation of the iPod into the iPod Mini and other sublines.
A new, lower-priced, smaller, and more adorable iPhone, with more or less the same technical specs as the original iPhone. Given that those specs include the 320 × 480 display, I wouldn’t expect something tiny, but remember that the original iPod Mini was “just” 35 percent smaller by volume than the then-current full-sized iPod. Shrink the iPhone’s forehead and chin and make it thinner — maybe a lot thinner — is what I’m thinking.
This makes sense, but to a great extent, they’ve already done it with the iPod Touch. It’s a lot thinner and lighter than the iPhone. And I don’t actually like its in-hand feel as much as the iPhone 3G’s. It’s less relevant for a device whose primary purpose is playing music from your pocket, but the goals for a phone aren’t necessarily to be as tiny as possible. That’s not to say that I don’t think Apple will do it — indeed, I think they will split the iPhone line into two distinct products similar to what John describes, possibly as early as this year’s WWDC.
But I don’t believe that the iPhone 3G’s size is the upper bound. I think they’ll make a slim iPhone, most likely by shrinking the 3G’s components (or lower-power, more integrated equivalents) into a smaller case, maybe without speakers, very similar to the iPod Touch, and make that the new mainstream iPhone with a subsidized price of $99 or $149. Like the iPod Mini, this will satisfy most people’s needs, and to them, it’ll be a nice iPhone-entry-price cut.
Then Apple will unveil something like an iPhone Pro that will be similar to the iPhone 3G but with a few exclusive hardware improvements, most likely including an autofocus-video camera and a bigger battery. CPU and RAM upgrades are possible, and would be wonderful, but they aren’t highly necessary or likely. This will probably sell subsidized for $199-299, and will be the same size as the iPhone 3G or slightly larger. I’d be perfectly happy with a 20% increase in size and weight if the difference went primarily to a bigger battery and an autofocus camera lens.
Then they can still have the cool slick thin phone, yet keep providing some of the larger and more power-hungry features to power users who could finally stop complaining about the battery life.