Summary:

There have been a lot of reports speculating on what might be in store in the next iPhone, and when it might hit the market. Will it have LT…

White iPhone 4

There have been a lot of reports speculating on what might be in store in the next iPhone, and when it might hit the market. Will it have LTE? What about NFC? The latest informed opinion takes the conservative route in terms of what will will see. But will incremental upgrades be enough to keep the punters interested in the face of nearly weekly launches of Android and other smart devices?

A new report from the analysts at Jefferies & Co. (via Forbes) predicts that the next iPhone to come from Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) will not be a major upgrade. Instead, it will feature only incremental improvements on the current iPhone 4 on the market today.

Analyst Peter Misek says that “industry checks” indicate that the phone — to be named the iPhone 4S — will have “cosmetic” modifications; improved cameras, a dual-core processor and HSPA+ support for faster 3G connectivity. But it will not support LTE, and there doesn’t seem to be any word about NFC, either. (On LTE in particular, he notes that Apple tried to but didn’t manage to get these into the phones for this upgrade.)

He says that it is likely that it will also signal a new level of carrier deals, with Sprint (NYSE: S), T-Mobile USA and — perhaps most significantly for Apple’s market share — China Mobile all coming on board.

It will be worth seeing whether extending the device to new markets, and launching it with only incremental upgrades, will be enough to drive Apple sales in the face of very heated competition from other handset makers, many of which are using Android but also RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) and those developing on the Windows Phone platform, too. Nokia (NYSE: NOK), for one, may well launch its first Windows device before the year is out, according to an interview with its CEO the other week.

Masek also notes that sales of the current iPhone 4 have slowed down at two of Apple’s biggest carrier partners, AT&T (NYSE: T) and Vodafone (NYSE: VOD) — although the launch of the white iPhone (pictured) and some other new carrier partners are going some way to offset that.

Updated 3:30 p.m. – Now another financial analyst claims that Apple’s going to skip NFC with the next generation of the iPhone. Bernstein Research, according to Business Insider, put out a note this morning saying the wireless technology is not in the cards for the next iPhone, no matter what it is called. That could hold back adoption of NFC as a mobile payment standard, but with others like Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Research in Motion pushing ahead with NFC-related plans, retailers might still have a reason to install NFC readers in their stores.

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