The iPad isn't the only Apple device subject to frenzied scuttlebutt: just as rivals such as Microsoft and Samsung are using this week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to debut their own smartphone and tablet features, rumors sprung up on this side of the Atlantic that Cupertino is prepping a smaller, cheaper version of the iPhone.
"One of the people, who saw a prototype of the phone late last year, said it is intended for sale alongside Apple's existing line," reads the Feb. 14 Wall Street Journal report that helped ignite the rumor mill. "The new device would be about half the size of the iPhone 4, which is the current model." The new iPhone will appear this summer, apparently, along with a tweaked version of MobileMe that will store users' "photos, music and videos" in the cloud.
The article declined to detail whether "half the size of the iPhone 4" referred to the screen or the thickness. The current iPhone's screen measures 3.5 inches on the diagonal, meaning a halved screen would measure 1.75 inches-only slightly larger than the current iPod Nano's 1.54 inches. With the music player, Apple sidesteps the potential difficulties of finger-tapping that small space by presenting a limited number of icons on the screen at a time; if the "iPhone Nano" rumors prove accurate, then presumably Apple will retool the user interface to accommodate dialing numbers and using apps on reduced screen real estate.
But "half the size" may not be a rigid metric, and Apple-again, if the rumors prove true-could be playing with varying reductions in thickness, screen length, and other measurements.
This isn't the first burst of speculation over Apple possibly minimizing its products' size. Rumors of a seven-inch iPad circulated widely during summer 2010, only to die once Apple CEO Steve Jobs denigrated that particular tablet size during an October 2010 earnings call. And scuttlebutt of an iPhone Nano traces back to at least 2008.
Apple's habit of not providing official comment-and keeping its products under CIA-caliber lock-and-key until a highly choreographed unveiling event-invites no end of rampant speculation, which in turn adds to the company's cachet. Over the past few weeks, bloggers and journalists have debated over possible new features of a next-generation iPad, with general consensus seeming to lean toward front- and rear-facing cameras and a slimmer form-factor. The occasional spy photo further fuels the frenzy.
Apple faces increased competition in the smartphone space from not only a rising number of Google Android devices, but also an increasingly determined Microsoft and Research In Motion. Microsoft's new alliance with Nokia, announced Feb. 11, will see Windows Phone 7 ported onto the latter's devices, and almost certainly change the global smartphone landscape in as-yet-unpredictable ways.