A beta release of iOS 4.3 to app developers has yielded some revelations about the future of the iPhone and iPad.
The most interesting is a series of references in the iOS 4.3 source code that suggest 2011 will see the release of several new iPhones and iPads. The code shows references to two version of the iPhone 5 -- probably CDMA and GSM versions, so that it’ll be compatible with both Verizon (VZ) and AT&T’s (T) networks.
If that’s the case, and Apple (AAPL) is developing for another CDMA iPhone, it could suggest that the company isn’t all that concerned about the much-discussed lack of simultaneous voice and data. That’s been one of the major drawbacks for lots of journalists as they talk about the pros and cons of switching to Verizon right now -- but either Apple isn’t worried about that voice/data issue (not that crazy seeing as 93 million other Verizon customers aren’t either, since they’ve never had that feature), or it’s working on a way to fix it. That’s been mentioned, too.
The 4.3 code also mentions three instances of the iPad 2, just like the iPhone 5. That suggests to most everyone on the Internet that the iPad 2, when it’s eventually released, is coming to Verizon, and the code is referencing CDMA, GSM and Wi-Fi-only versions of the tab.
We’re also seeing code for all devices running iOS 4.3 to have the mobile hotspot feature mentioned in the Verizon announcement, so it’ll be interesting to see what the carriers charge for that feature, or if AT&T offers it at all. Absent thus far, however, is anything that suggests the app subscription model we keep hearing about for publications on the iPhone and iPad.
Something Called ‘Find My Friends’
One of the newest items discovered in the code is a new feature called “Find My Friends,” which will apparently link into Apple’s MobileMe service. All we have to go on right now is the name, but Apple has mentioned it wants to expand and improve MobileMe this year, so Find My Friends is likely the first step down that road.
Speculation over at Mashable pegs Find My Friends as potentially some kind of Google (GOOG) Places-like service. It seems likely (and obvious) that it’ll utilize GPS technology and social networking, and could possibly be like some apps we’ve seen that allow you to ping your friends to let them know you’re looking for them, and have them send back specific messages that enable your phone to navigate to them. Who knows if it’ll be worth the $99 per year MobileMe subscription, though.
Possible Hardware Changes
A couple of other things worth noting: First, it appears the iPad 2’s mute button will be switched back to a hardware screen lock button. A lot of iPad users have complained about the initial change, and it seems Apple might be listening.
However, the trade-off could be the removal of the iPad’s Home button. That’s the report from BGR.com, which mentions that in favor of the physical button, Apple is switching to a multi-touch activated button. That means that putting five fingers on the screen, for example, would bring the device back to its home screen, rather than the use of a hardware button. The multi-touch software is in the code right now, so we’ll have to wait and see what physical effect it has on future devices.
But if you’re an iPhone 3GS owner, iOS 4.3 probably will indicate your need to upgrade. The code appears to show that Apple is done updating software for that phone. Since we’re expecting the iPhone 5 by the middle of the year, it makes sense that Apple is ready to stop worrying about its aging phone models. Old iPhone owners also are coming to a point at which they’ll have lots of new iPhone options, what with Verizon, AT&T, the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 5.