Yesterday Apple unveiled its next-generation iPhone (dubbed the iPhone 3G, after the faster 3G cellular network that will replace the slower EDGE network used for the original iPhone). The device represents a substantial improvement over last summer's original iPhone, not only in the upgrade to 3G but also in the addition of GPS capability, the ability for third-party applications, and, significantly, in a much lower price tag--at $199 for an 8 gb model, half the price of the original edition.
Speculation has become rampant already that this new and improved iPhone will continue to be a category killer, and in even more categories. The iPhone is now: a digital music player; a portable video player; a camera and digital photo display; a mobile web browser; a portable GPS unit; a personal digital assistant (PDA); and, oh yeah, a mobile telephone. The fact that the phone capability can seem (even if jokingly) like an afterthought, yet remains the foundation of the device, is a sign of how powerful the concept of a unified mobile device might end up being.
The linchpin of this new iPhone and its promise as such a unified device is its shockingly low $199 price tag. When you consider that separately an iPod Nano costs $149, a PDA can cost a couple hundred, a digital camera another $150-200, and a portable GPS unit around $200, you begin to sense just how revolutionary such a unified device could be--and how powerful will be the company that provides that device. Apple is seeking to be that company.
In addition to all of the things such a device could be are all of the things such a device could allow one to do. There are already predictions that the 3G iPhone might make portable GPS devices obsolete. Services such as Loopt and Facebook will be able to utilize the iPhone's GPS capability in new and interesting ways. The concept of mobile social networking has begun to gain some traction, and the iPhone is seen to be instrumental in its realization.
The long and short of the new iPhone is that regardless of whether or not one actually has an iPhone per se, all of us will probably eventually have one unified mobile device that fulfills all of the functions enumerated above. And just as the web in general revolutionized what can be done with a computer, so will this kind of device revolutionize what can be done while mobile.