updated 03:15 pm EDT, Mon October 16, 2006
Apple has officially filed for the "iPhone" trademark, which all but confirms rumors that the Cupertino-based company will launch its own mobile handset in the near future. Discovered in a Southeast Asian trademark filing dated September 15th, the trademark uses the name in direct reference to a device which is listed both under the category of "MP3 and other digital audio players" as well as handsets capable of "sending and receiving telephone calls," according to AppleInsider. The filing also covers the role of a "stand-alone video game machine," suggesting that the new phone will allow users to play games -- such as those recently released via the iTunes Music Store for $4.99 each -- which currently work with Apple's video iPod models. Apple has previously filed for related patents in the U.S. but hasn't committed itself to specific descriptions or names until now. [updated]
Two different iPhone models are likely to appear, according to AppleInsider. Prudential Equity Group analyst Jesse Tortora refers to anonymous sources claiming that the new phone will be available in two distinct versions: a slim, basic version that will play only music, and a deluxe variant which will offer Wi-Fi, video support, and a dedicated keyboard for messaging. No specific timeframe was given for when the phone will appear, though analysts such as Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster have speculated that MacWorld 2007 is a likely venue for the introduction.
A Taiwanese phone maker in late March claimed that Apple executives were talking to various phone makers in an effort to ink a manufacturing deal for an iPod-like phone. Reports followed in mid-May that the iPod-maker had in fact partnered with Softbank -- a Japanese firm -- and that the companies would release the phone in Japan some time this year. A later report claimed that Apple CEO Steve Jobs was discussing the iPhone aloud at Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, and that the executive had approved the release of prototype cell phones to at least two potential OEM manufacturing partners.
A patent soon surfaced depicting a "Multi-functional hand-held device" which described a cellular phone capable of functioning in multiple modes. Shortly after the patent came into view, industry analyst Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray predicted up to 12 million iPhone sales for Apple if it debuts at Macworld 2007 in January of 2007, and that the device could raise the company's earnings-per-share in its calendar year 2007 by 6-10 percent.
A recent survey revealed that European customers are also interested in Apple's cellular handset, with 74 percent of respondents saying they would likely purchase a music phone if the price were $285. In a separate report, the analyst points to expanding music phone sales in the U.S. as a sign that Apple will likely debut its new phone within 3-6 months, for fear of missing early adopters.