iPhone rumor mill strikes again

Leaked pictures of the new iPhone underline cluelessness of both iPhone fanboys and T-Mobile

I wonder why T-Mobile, days after rolling out a well-received firmware overhaul of its still-current G1 Android handset, is saying that the "follow-on device to the T-Mobile G1" is in the bullpen for an early summer delivery. The company won't reveal any details until later this month, says the T-Mobile CTO in an interview linked on T-Mobile's G1 user forums. So if you have nothing to say, why say anything? I hate it when a vendor reserves a seat at the table without making any commitments.

It seems to me that T-Mobile is advising prospective G1 buyers to hold out for the device's replacement, but that makes no sense. Or does it? The iPhone fanboy network recently distributed some extraordinarily poor photographs (which, in the rumor biz, bolsters credibility) purporting to be of the new iPhone. I don't link to rumors; I'll leave it to you to locate the pics, or you could grab some crayons and create your own.

[ Pssst. Want to know what's in the new iPhone? See "iPhone 3.0: A brand-new iPhone in a free update." ]

The pictures supposedly show UIs for an autofocus camera/camcorder and a compass, a pair of surface features present in T-Mobile G1 but lacking in iPhone 3G (all iPhone cameras have been fixed-focus). The aim of the rumor is, quite plainly, to try to shut down G1 sales pending delivery of Apple's new device.

Killer apps

It's a sad, adolescent ploy that leans on the weak logic that if iPhone 3G had shipped with an autofocus camera and compass, T-Mobile couldn't give G1s away. Rumor-droppers set aside the role that a QWERTY keyboard, trackball, the Android UI, Java, open source, Google's cloud, OTA syncs and updates, and T-Mobile's customer service played in putting millions of G1s in buyers' hands. If only I had a dime for each T-Mobile G1 buyer deeply desirous of iPhone 3G but who, for need of a compass or a focusing camera, settled for G1 instead. Oh wait, I do. Now you know my net worth.

The trouble with being a die-hard fan of anything is that you can come to see the world as being neatly divided into three groups: The enlightened who own and appreciate what you love, the unfortunate slobs whose bosses/wives/apps/whatever keep them from exercising the choice they know is right, and the absurdly witless masses who keep Microsoft in business. In iPhanboys' case, it's RIM and Android who are leaders of the lemmings.

Might Apple put an autofocus camera and compass in the next iPhone? Sure, but in case it isn't obvious, I don't care. I'd trade those features for one more Exchange inbox and the ability to connect to well-known TCP ports without cracking the phone, but such are my skewed priorities. Roll 30 feet with GPS on and you get your compass heading. Cell phone cameras are almost uniformly horrible. I hope that Apple holds out until it can at least get the software right (Android does not).

The G factor

This brings me back to T-Mobile, which, it appears to me, felt compelled to counter the iPhone rumor with its own vaporous marketing, thereby reinforcing the myth that G1 owners really wanted iPhones all along. Or perhaps T-Mobile simply wants to avoid being buried in the PR avalanche generated by iPhone 3.0 and the simultaneous buy-in of other operators to Android. Sorry, T-Mobile. You're worrying that people will stop buying G1 based on a couple of blurry photos, but you can't fight that with empty hands.

What about "Android G2," aka HTC Magic? I hope that's not what T-Mobile's trying to hype. HTC Magic, a keyboardless G1 with a de-geeked exterior that's already selling in Europe through Vodafone, would be a welcome addition to T-Mobile's product line, but that is not worth putting the entire mobile market on tenterhooks. It's certainly not worth spooking existing G1 owners, who are now wondering how the first end-of-lifed Android device will be handled. Will G1 be supported like iPhone, where existing customers are kept in feature parity with new devices (within limits of the hardware) for free, or like every other mobile platform, where firmware updates stop up as soon as the new model comes out?

T-Mobile should have been ready with answers to this and similar questions before it put a toe tag on G1. It should have had a new device in position before it even whispered at the G1's replacement. I'm only speculating when I imagine that T-Mobile was spurred to blurt out a pre-announcement.

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