Apple and AT&T to awaken 3G within all iPhones via firmware update?

“It would be nice if Apple and AT&T could come up with some little extra boost for Christmas sales like, for example, a software upgrade. That was pretty much inevitable, don’t you think? The idea that the iPhone could go even three months without a significant firmware upgrade would be ignoring the reality of modern consumer electronics. Apple or AT&T will have got a few things wrong that will require a firmware upgrade to fix. And while they are at it, I’m sure the companies will add a feature or two, like TRUE 3G DATA SERVICE,” Robert X. Cringely writes for PBS.

“It is my understanding that Apple and AT&T are planning a fall rollout for full 3G iPhone service, with technical trials already underway in certain AT&T markets. AT&T’s (formerly Cingular’s) 3G uses a technology called HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access), which is a combination of GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) and EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution). It provides average mobile data download connections between 400 kilobits per second (kbps) and 700 kbps,” Cringely writes. “Not as fast as any of us would like, of course, but the new service will be 3-5 times faster than the current EDGE network alone, making your iPhone suddenly 3-5 times faster than it was before, right?”

“I think so. The question here is whether 3G is already built into the iPhones shipping now or whether it will require a new model? Given that it is coming so soon after the iPhone introduction, I can’t believe that even Steve would make us buy new phones. It is very likely that a firmware upgrade will awaken the 3G within all you iPhone owners,” Cringely writes.

Much more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “pogo” for the heads up.]

MacDailyNews Note: Apple CEO Steve Jobs spoke with The New York Times’ John Markoff on June 28th. Markoff reported, “Mr. Jobs also said that Apple’s hardware design team had decided against using the more advanced 3G chipsets because were relatively power-hungry. As result, Apple improved the battery life of the iPhone. ‘We felt it wasn’t the right trade-off now,’ he said. ‘I’m sure that will all change in the future.'” Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We’ll take sync-able Keychain and Safari AutoFill (especially names and passwords) for the first iPhone update, please.


  1. As much as I would love to believe this, I’m really hesitant. There have been too many comments from Jobs and others that have pointed to the power consumption problems inherent in 3G technology as a big reason why it was left out of the 1.0 product.

    I think it’s coming eventually, but I’d be (very pleasantly) surprised if my current iPhone will be capable of it.

  2. Easy enough to check, there’s been iPhone tear-down’s already… do the chips support 3G or not? If not, leave it alone, no need to make people expect what they can’t have. If the chips can… then guess we know the plan.

  3. This phone has been torn apart by several people .. if it actually had a 3G radio in it, we would know it by now.

    I would LOVE to be wrong about this … once this phone is 3G compatible it will simply be GAME…SET…MATCH !!!!!

  4. My desires:

    iPod: I want coverflow to be playlist specific and not just all your albums whenever you turn it sideways.
    It also needs to have a song/artist/album search…like all the ipods do!!!!

    SMS and Mail: please integrate horizontal keyboard!!!

    and iChat application

    Photos: some way for photos to be more clear, i have hires photos on my macbook that look grainy when blown up to comparable size on the iphone.

    Video capability for the camera

    as far as more widgets go, i would love an RSS reader app, as well as RadarInMotion app!!!

    Not to mention versions of maps and safari that dont crash every 10 minutes….oh and add flash support plz!

  5. This thought crossed my mind. Apple would surprise a LOT of people who dissed the iPhone for not supporting 3G tech.

    Can we say iPhone Launch 2.0 (with the v1.0 product)? That would royally rock, but I think the chipsets would’ve been identified by now.

  6. HSDPA requires hardware above and beyond EDGE. Highly unlikely, therefore, that the iPhone has HSDPA hardware but is not being allowed to use it (HSDPA is backwards compatible with EDGE). No software upgrade can perform the miracle of transforming an EDGE chip into an HSDPA chip. Also, it is b.s. that HSDPA is power-hungry. It may require more power to transmit at higher speeds, but higher speeds mean that much more data is transmitted per unit of time. So for a given amount of data, much less power is effectively required. The problem is twofold: ATT doesn’t have HSDPA everywhere, and Apple didn’t want to allow better carriers (e.g. Verizon) to sell the iPhone with 3G capabilities, for whatever reason.

  7. Like the release of 802.11n support of Core2Duo Macs which had a $1.99 (is that amount right?) fee, SOX won’t allow the 1.0 phones to be miraculously transformed into 3G without a fee. Even if it is technically possible, there would be a fee attached.

  8. @Economan –

    It’s not that Apple didn’t let “better carriers” sell the iPhone. Is that no other carrier would let Apple produce a phone the way Apple wanted to. Carriers have forever hobbled cell phones so they could maximize revenue, even at the cost of customer satisfaction. Apple wouldn’t play Verizon’s game. In fact, David Pogue has a column about it today that puts Apple’s real accomplishment in perspective. It’s a must-read for all Apple fans (and haters):

  9. ‘The idea that the iPhone could go even three months without a significant firmware upgrade would be ignoring the reality of modern consumer electronics.”

    WTF? That is a truly ludicrous statement.

    Exactly WHAT consumer electronics product has frequent firmware updates? Certainly not cell phones. Is he talking about XBox/Apple TV type products? Computers? Those are not “consumer electronics” products in the same sense as a cd player, walkman or a phone.

    3G phones have totally different guts in them. I have a feeling iSuppli would have noticed if there were 2 sets of innards in there…

    what is this dude smokin’?

  10. Do not think for one minute that they would wait three months and then roll out the 3G version…and you would have to buy the new phone. Look at AppleTV. I buy it the week it is released. It works well enough, however, less than 90 days after release the new 160 gb version is available.

    Is it conceivable that it could be as simple as firmware? Sure. There is no reason to believe that the 3G phone would not work on the edge network. That is my understanding of the current system prior to the Apple phone. While the Apple phone is stunningly gorgeous, and intoxicating to hold, I just cannot forgive the lack of high speed internet without WiFi.

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