AT&T chief: 3G iPhone right around the corner; Will iPhone demand freeze?

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson stated the obvious: A 3G version of the iPhone is coming in 2008. But Stephenson's comments may freeze demand for the iPhone.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson stated the obvious: A 3G version of the iPhone is coming in 2008. But Stephenson's comments may freeze demand for the iPhone. Why buy a relatively slow iPhone when you can get a 3G one next year?

Sometimes you have to wonder how coordinated Apple and AT&T are. Apple CEO Steve Jobs has alluded to the 3G iPhone before, but never put out a rough timeline like Stephenson did. According to Bloomberg, Stephenson said "You'll have it next year." Stephenson was speaking at the Churchhill Club in Santa Clara on Wednesday.

So why could Stephenson inadvertently put the freeze on iPhone sales? With the iPhone (all resources) it's all about the network. And the biggest complaint about the iPhone is AT&T's slow EDGE network. Turbo charge the iPhone with 3G and a lot of complaints disappear.

Perhaps the average iPhone craving bear won't wait for the 3G version, but some percentage of prospective buyers will. That means Stephenson's comments can't be music to Jobs' ears. To bring up the 3G phone explicitly during this holiday shopping season isn't the way Jobs likes to operate. He treats Apple's product plans, even if obvious, like state secrets. Those who violate the cone of silence are infidels to be banished from the tribe or sued.

Stephenson won't be banished by Jobs for violating Apple protocol. It's not the first time he has stated the obvious, although he was more specific this time. On October 23 Stephenson said there would be a 3G iPhone, during his visit to the Web 2.0 Summit. But Jobs can't be too happy this morning, especially if the 3G iPhone continues to be the buzz and it won't be ready soon, as in for Macworld in January. If not, iPhone sales could be dragged down as customers wait for the second coming.

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