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The Next iPhone: HD Video, New OEM and SKU Silliness

Engadget has been digging through the iPhone OS SDK and, tucked away inside the MediaValidator.plist file, found what it believes are clues to future HD video capabilities in the next revision of the iPhone (codenamed N89). Engadget’s Chris Ziegler writes;

…the maximum video width is up from 768 pixels to 1280, and the maximum number of pixels per frame is up to 921,600, which just happens to work out to 1280 x 720. The device’s AVC profile has been bumped from 3.0 to 3.1, too, which adds in support for 720p.

Image by Engadget

Does this mean we can expect a (much) higher resolution screen in the next iPhone, possibly even OLED? (Mind you, it doesn’t matter one jot how brilliant OLED is – watching HD on a three and a half inch screen is still Teeny-Weeny-Eye-Strain-O-Vision, however you look at it.)

More sensibly, the baked-in HD capabilities might be intended for those times when connecting the iPhone to a big screen. (Which raises new questions about the method Apple might use to connect an iPhone an external HD monitor; Mini DisplayPort? HDMI? I’m pretty sure LightPeek is out of the question, but, heck, while we’re speculatin’…)

Alternatively, this might not be relevant to the iPhone at all but, instead, is relevant only to the iPad (which shares the same OS).

Foxconn’s New Friend

Meanwhile, the Taiwan-based DigiTimes yesterday reported that consumer electronics manufacturer Pegatron is set to produce the next revision of the iPhone, due later this year. Presumably veteran manufacturer Foxconn, who has produced each generation of the iPhone since 2007, are also continuing to produce Apple’s handsets.

What can I tell you about Pegatron, aside from the fact that its name is worthy of a Transformers character? (Megatron, Galvatron, Pegatron… yes?) Pegatron was founded by netbook giant ASUS two years ago. It is a consumer electronics manufacturer dabbling in all manner of devices, from LCD TVs to Microsoft’s upcoming Natal controller. According to DigiTimes, Pegatron has managed to score handset orders from “various telecom carriers.”

This is all absolutely essential background information when cooking-up new iPhone conjecture. Why would Apple secure a second handset manufacturer? Does Apple expect significantly greater demand for the next iPhone (more than Foxconn could satisfy?) Could Pegatron be the manufacturer of the first CDMA iPhone?

Could the addition of a second OEM point to Apple producing (or maintaining) multiple iPhone SKUs? There are six different iPad SKUs, why not have six different iPhone SKUs, too?

If Apple maintains the current iPhone lineup as well as adding a next-generation handset later this year, we would be left with a somewhat convoluted product line; there would be the iPhone 3G (black, 8GB) the iPhone 3GS (black/white, 16/32GB) and then, presumably, an iPhone 4G in Black, White, ‘iPad Silver’ and, of course, ‘Unicorn.’ And don’t forget the SKUs that will be introduced as a result of supporting different carrier frequencies. What was once a relatively simple (and fairly minimalist) lineup is made painfully complicated. It’s one step shy of producing a whole series of iPhone ‘Editions.’ Can you imagine it? ‘iPhone Home Premium’, ‘iPhone Professional’, ‘iPhone Ultimate’. (Who will buy ‘iPhone Starter Edition’?)

I kid of course, but there’s good reason to be wary. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in the late 90’s he axed entire product lines in an effort to simplify the company’s offerings (and, no doubt, cut costs). Since then, the variation in individual products that was, for a brief time, refreshingly limited has diversified into quite an astonishing array; just three ‘species’ of laptop and three desktop families manage to produce, between them, bewildering variations in size, capability and price. (Apple calls the iMac the “Ultimate all-in-one” which is amusing when one considers the enormous variety in iMac SKUs.)

The Ultimate all-in-one… depends on which 'one' you buy…

Apple understands the enormous value (and profits) in offering customers multiple variations of the same product. It’s how they present that variety that’s so clever. Apple somehow manages to keep their lineup simple, identifiable and easy. A quick glance at a Mac will tell you, broadly speaking, what kind of Mac it is. Can the same be said of a modern Dell computer?

The point is customers expect wide variation between computers, but when it comes to smartphones they want a certain degree of homogeny. Particularly among high-profile, expensive smartphones. If you’re spending a lot of money on a so-called smartphone, you don’t want to perceive it as being somehow less-smart than a similar product from a competitor – or worse, a similar product from the same manufacturer!

Apple changed the rules of the game; if you wanted the best smartphone in the world, you bought an iPhone. Could the rules change later this year to “If you want the best smartphone in the world, buy an iPhone, but… be really careful which one you buy, ‘cos some are better than others.”

Of course, we’ll know in a few short months. But in the meantime, there’s nothing to stop us debating the possibilities.

5 Responses to “The Next iPhone: HD Video, New OEM and SKU Silliness”

  1. don’t wait for anther iPhone, it’ll be behind current technology and possibilites even before sales starts. 5MP camera? Try the Sony X10 instead. AMLED display? About every newer Android phone has it. Resolution? Motorola and others have 854x480px since January.

    So, no matter how funky a new iPhone will be – it will be outdated even before release.

  2. In my experince. Large companies like to have two manufactures for their products incase either begins to present problems. So more than likely, Apple are just being cautious, not trying to meet demand.