That undead iPhone rumour
Some rumours, unlike others, are revived year after year, even if Steve Jobs himself said there wouldn't ever be such a product. He didn't say that about the iPhone, though, but rumours are as old as iSync, back when Apple introduced that and the only real compatible phone was the Sony Ericsson T68i (and older Ericsson T68 variants as well as some other phones of the same maker).
Add to that the never-ending dream of a Newton-revival as well as the fact that mobile phones have started to eat on lowend music players like the iPod shuffle plus a lot of other details and ideas - and you have one giant mesh of a rumour-web.
People say "iPhone" or "iPod phone", but no two persons I've heard talk about it have the same idea what that would actually be. Early on, when iSync was new, the rumour mainly meant a colour screen mobile phone which integrated nicely into iCal and Address Book. Then came the Newton-revival rumours and the iPhone suddenly was a PDA with phone functions as well. Then 3G and iChat AV, and of course
an Apple-branded iPhone would include WiFi as well as support for iChat video chats! Then all the iPod-related things that would "definitely" mean that an iPhone or iPod phone would need a scrollwheel and "at least" 4 GB of space for music.
But let's take a step back and look at three different "iPhones". All of them are based on the mesh of rumours around the iPhone - but also on things that are technically feasible as well as marketable.1.) Just a mobile phone slash music player.
It would integrate nicely into iSync, have a great display, no camera but a little scrollwheel for (among other things) handle the mobile iTunes client, which would - of course! - be much better at playing tunes and videos. Yes, videos as well. Maybe. But with only 1 GB of memory (non-upgradable), it'd be clearly aimed at musical performance - besides being used as a mobile phone, of course.2.) A decent 3G mobile phone.
Still only 1 GB of memory, but adding two cameras and a slot for mini-SD cards. The "iSight mobile" (facing you
) takes 640*480 video for videoconferencing. The photo camera would be of the 2 or 3 MegaPixel variant, have autofocus and a real flash. Everything else the same as above.3.) A decent allround communication device.
It's a (very) small tablet computer with slideout keyboard. Touchscreen of course like the video iPod mock-ups you've seen. It has WiFi as well, can do iChat AV chats/conferences like any iChat client - but also over 3G networks, maybe even EDGE, and voice-chats on GPRS as well. More importantly, you can use iChat instead of texting, which saves money. (While this can already be done on most mobile phones using Agile Messenger or similar software, it's a rather less well-known fact...) It also does E-Mail, of course (.Mac plus IMAP4 and POP3), synchs E-Mail with your Mac and can even double as a PDA with a nice JAVA implementation that offers some sort of magic user-interface layer. It's no "mobile OS X", but it looks and acts like it and offers a TextEdit clone as well as a Preview/media player application which lets you view everything from H.264/MPEG-4 movies over Word files to PDF etc. Easily. With 8 GB or more NAND flash memory, it's an easy task. You can attach your iPod (with Dock connector) as well and see its library on the phone.
Now... I personally would prefer number one and three. Either or. Something in the middle, in my opinion, always leaves the bad mouth-feeling of being neither. I'm sure there are a lot of variants for number two, but usually, they're all caught between stools. Wouldn't be Apple-like. For more about recent "proof" of a coming iPhone, read this AppleInsider rumour