We’re just two days away from Apple’s WWDC keynote where it’s expected to show off the next generation iPhone hardware. Not surprisingly, pictures are starting to surface on the web of the purported device — a French site, Nowhere Else, has a bunch of them, that have since been posted elsewhere. Who knows if the pictures are real or fake — it seems like just as often these days people yell “Photoshop,” when the product is actually real as the vice-versa situation. But real or fake, I have to say that I hope they’re real for one reason.
While at first glance, that device looks nearly identical to the current iPhone (it seems like that will definitely be the case), there is one big difference: A front-facing camera. This is interesting to me for two reasons, because it could jump-start two trends: Mobile video chatting and the self-picture.
Now, there are a few other devices capable of doing mobile video chatting, but none have taken off yet. But an Apple chat app built exactly like its iChat app on Mac computers, could change that immediately. Just imagine placing a call to another iPhone user (or maybe even someone using iChat on their computer) and being able to hit a button and see their face. It’s something that seems like an obvious direction to go in, and there’s been talk about it before, and patents filed indicating such functionality.
Assuming this new iPhone is significantly faster than the current model, it certainly seems like a possibility. But there’s a major x-factor pointing in the direction of why this won’t happen: AT&T. Considering that it gets all worked up when developers try to create a Sling app that can stream video over its 3G network, and blocks it (it’s Wi-Fi only), just imagine what it will think about two-way live streaming video chat.
Of course, that stance is pretty ridiculous considering that AT&T allows the Sling app to work on other phones on its network. But given what it knows about how much bandwidth iPhone users use versus the other smartphones out there, AT&T made a play to attempt to salvage its often sketchy network. But it’s possible that if AT&T really is doing massive upgrades to its network to get ready for this new iPhone which will supposedly connect to the Internet at higher speeds, that the company could allow video streaming as long as it’s from Apple. After all, it doesn’t want to piss off Apple, lest it expands its business to other carriers, like Verizon, as well.
Or Apple/AT&T could just say that this mobile video chatting is limited to Wi-Fi, like the Sling player is. But that would be pretty lame.
But it seems logical that sooner or later this functionality will come to the majority of smartphones. And you can bet that Apple wants to be credited with jump-starting this trend. And I think it would work because while video chat is cool on the computer (most people still seem to be impressed when they see a video iChat for the first time), it sucks being tethered to a desk and chair to use it. Using it on the go could be much more interesting. Naturally, some people would hate such a feature, but it would be one of those things that eventually became a norm, I think. It wouldn’t replace straight-up voice calling obviously, but it would be a nice option.
The other trend I noted above is one that is actually already alive and well: Self-picture taking. People have been doing this a lot pretty much since the dawn of the digital camera since you can immediately take a picture, see how you look, then delete and re-take if it’s bad. And people seem to love doing it on the iPhone already, as you can see clearly on all the web’s photo sharing sites.
But as it stands right now, you either have to take the picture in a mirror, which just looks odd because you’re holding your iPhone in the picture — and you’re well, taking a picture in a mirror of yourself. Or you have to hold the iPhone away from you to snap the shot. But that often results in a crap picture because the iPhone’s camera sucks and doesn’t have a steady-cam features (though it seems likely that the new one will).
But a forward-facing camera could be a game-changer for the vain — which, come on, we all are in some regard. And it’s something that Apple already has experience with thanks to its Photo Booth program which is included in OS X. For those that haven’t used it, basically it just allows you to use a computer’s camera to take a picture of yourself and you can do weird things to the picture like give yourself a giant head. I could definitely see Apple including that same funtionality on the iPhone.
So again, I don’t know if these latest pictures are legit at all. They look pretty good, but there is odd issues with focus, blurriness and illuminated dots. But that really doesn’t matter, eventually I think Apple will add a forward-facing camera to the iPhone to lead the way in the mobile video chatting and self-picture trends — it just may not be announced this Monday.