Apple began work on iPhone 4G in 2008, has next-gen iPhone 3GS on standby in case 4G problems arise

Wed, May 26, 2010


DigiTimes has a fascinating Q&A with one of its own research analyts who reveals that Apple had another iPhone 4G model floating around that differed from the leaked model famously showcased on Gizmodo a few weeks back.

The leaked iPhone 4G had a tag that said “N90,” which is the internal development codename for the iPhone 4G, and very few people outside the company knew about it prior to the leak.

On a side note, Apple initiated the iPhone 4G project at the end of 2008. According to our sources, Apple actually has another product codenamed N91 for the project, which offers less change from previous iPhones compared with the N90. It’s a parallel product to back up the N90 in case there are major delays due to significant modifications in casing, display resolution, digital camera support and so forth.

Regarding display support, research analyst Ming-Chi Kuo explained that Apple hasn’t messed around with the iPhone’s screen resolution as a means to ensure consistency for developers across various iPhone models. Echoing previous leaks, Kuo anticipates that the next iPhone 4G will sport a resolution of 960×480, and will be “significant enough to ensure competitiveness and minimal modifications in the next 2-3 years.”

Kuo also reiterates an earlier DigiTimes report stating that the next-gen iPhone will come with IPS (in-plane switching) and FFS (fringe-field switching) technology to allow for even wider viewing angles and better visibility in sunlight. The technologies should also provide users with improved battery life.

Next, Kuo explains why Appe didn’t go with AMOLED panels on the upcoming iPhone:

According to our sources, Apple had spoken with Samsung Mobile Display (SMD) about the possibility for AMOLED panels since the development of the iPhone 3GS, but production capacity remains a big issue. SMD only has the capability to fulfill 50-60% of iPhone orders at the moment even it dedicated all AMOLED capacity to Apple.

Of course, cost is always a concern. AMOLED panels cost US$34-38. TN panels cost less than US$10 and IPS panels around US$20.

AMOLED also has display weaknesses. SMD uses PenTile technology developed by Clairvoyante to produce AMOLED, which is less suitable for displaying text. With Apple quite keen on pushing e-reading businesses, AMOLED may not be the best solution at the moment.

Lastly, Kuo notes that the upcoming iPhone will sport Apple’s homegrown A4 processor based on the ARM Cortex A8 core. Notably, Kuo mentions that the A4 was “actually a joint effort between Apple, Samsung and Intrinsity,” and that the bulk of the technology actually came from Samsung. Incidentally, it recently came to light that Apple purchased Intrinsity a while back.

Samsung has a Cortex A9 multi-core processor under development as well, but it requires OS support to take advantage of the enhanced power. Since the launch schedule of the Cortex A9 processor is estimated for year’s end and iPhone 4.0 is not ready to fully utilize a multi-core processor, the A4 is the mostly likely candidate.

Some other tidbits include:

  • iPhone 4G is memory hungry and will come with more than the 256MB of RAM used in the iPhone 3GS
  • “Apple has been planning the iPhone 4G since the end of 2008, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the company already has more modifications or more advanced products planned for 2012 and beyond.”


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