By Harry McCracken | Sunday, August 3, 2008 at 7:23 pm
There are Apple rumors that ring true. There are ones that sound like they might be true. And then there are the ones that have a whiff of fantasy about them. I’d put Simon Fluendy’s report in the UK’s Daily Mail of an iPhone Nano scheduled for Christmas release in that last category.
It’s not that a simpler and cheaper iPhone is unthinkable. Actually, it would be unthinkable if one doesn’t show up eventually, and I have no reason to think that Steve Jobs and company aren’t preparing one for the holidays. (I do kinda wonder if they might want to give the current, highly profitable iPhone a bit more time as the only iPhone before they introduce a more downscale version, but who knows?)
The thing about the Mail’s report is that it’s skimpy and skimpily sourced, with the info coming from “an industry source” and “one expert.” It says that Britain’s O2 will sell the phones for “up to £150,” and there’s nothing obviously unlikely about that, I guess. But it also describes the phone as supposedly having “a touch wheel on the back and display on the front so that numbers would be dialled from behind.”
That sounds just plain weird and nonsensical; how could such a design be anything but bizarrely unusable? How would you dial numbers with a touch wheel at all?
I can’t imagine that any company would release such a phone, and particularly not Apple. And one lesson with Apple rumors is that the ones that involve alleged products which incorporate features from existing products (like the touch wheel) in ways that sound improbably clunky never pan out.
(I’m reminded of many of the rumors about the iPhone before it actually appeared–many of them involved a phone that looked and worked a lot like an iPod…but when the iPhone arrived, it had little in common with an iPod from a hardware standpoint. Apple was far more imaginative than most of the people who speculated on what an iPhone might be, and far more committed to stretching the definition of what an iPod could be.)
Designing and manufacturing a more basic, inexpensive iPhone that makes sense won’t be easy–especially since the current model delivers so much power at the relatively low price of $199. An “iPhone Nano” would probably have to be significantly cheaper to find a market, and it would be interesting to see if it could incorporate multi-touch and other features that–today at least–make an iPhone and iPhone. Of, if it didn’t have much in common with today’s iPhones, whether consumers would accept it as one.
Of course, the evolution of the iPod from one model to an array of versions with widely differing features and price points shows that Apple can turn one product into a product line, and be wildly successful at doing it. So I repeat: The company will do the same thing with the iPhone. But if it does it in the way the Mail is reporting, I’ll be amazed.