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Newest iPhone SDK hints at 3G possibilities

Chip-set reference in firmware may point to faster data speeds

April 9, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Apple Inc.'s newest iPhone software development kit (SDK) hints at a change in chips that may confirm that the smart phone will be upgraded to the faster 3G data network this summer, according to details posted by programmers.

The third beta release of the iPhone SDK sports clues that the next version of the popular device will include Infineon Technologies AG's S-Gold 3 chip set, according to information posted by the makers of ZiPhone, an iPhone-unlocking utility.

In a screenshot posted to the ZiPhone Web site, the S-Gold 3 chip set is called out in the newest version of the iPhone firmware, which shipped with the revised SDK beta. "Well this was found inside the latest beta," wrote one of the ZiPhone creators identified as "Zibri."

According to documentation (download PDF) on the Infineon Web site, the S-Gold 3 chip set includes an EDGE-capable modem, as does the older S-Gold 2 Infineon chip set that researchers and users have spotted in the current iPhone.

But unlike the S-Gold 2, the newer chip set can be partnered with other chips, notably WCDMA co-processors, to enable access to faster 3G-based data networks. "[The] S-Gold 3 is configurable with a number of co-devices such as multimedia companion chips and/or WCDMA co-modem for 3G feature phones," Infineon said in a two-page data sheet for the S-Gold 3.

If included in a revamped iPhone, the S-Gold 3 chip set could also beef up the resolution of the phone's camera and possibly handle video calling. "Even the most performance-greedy applications such as video telephony and 3D graphics can easily be handled without additional hardware," bragged Infineon in its materials.

The data sheet also noted that the chip set's camera interface is capable of handling up to 5 megapixels; the current iPhone's camera maxes out at 2 megapixels.

Infineon also makes and sells a close cousin to the S-Gold 2, dubbed S-Gold 3H, that is an all-in-one 3G-capable chip set. Some Web sites and blogs, including numerous Apple-centric sites, such as AppleInsider, which first reported on the ZiPhone finding, have touted the firmware's "S-Gold 3" reference as referring to the even faster "H" model.

Technology and financial analysts who cover Apple have been predicting that the company will introduce a 3G-capable iPhone this summer -- most likely in June or July -- as it wraps up work on its iPhone 2.0 firmware, which CEO Steve Jobs announced early last month.

Last week, analysts said rumors that Apple has placed large orders for 3G iPhones with its Asian manufacturers are probably on the money. "A 10 million order for 3G iPhones for delivery over the remainder of the year makes perfect sense," Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research Inc., said in an interview last week.

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