updated 06:15 pm EST, Sun February 13, 2011
Mini iPhone coming as MobileMe goes media hub
Apple's rumored budget iPhone may also be much smaller and come paired with MobileMe as a full-fledged media service, a leak on Sunday night. The new version would be half the size of an iPhone 4, putting it in the league of phones like the Sony Ericsson X10 mini and HP Veer. It was described by the WSJ's sources as much lighter and using a rare edge-to-edge touchscreen.
Its price wasn't named but is targeted at about half that of an iPhone 4 off-contract, putting it at about $300. Timing also wasn't supplied, but if ready in time it could come in sync with Apple's usual June or July iPhone introduction.
MobileMe in the interim would be much more heavily upgraded. The service would be overhauled from its traditional focus on web galleries and basic sync to include a full-fledged cloud locker. Users would have access a more advanced general file system but also remote access to music, photos and video, letting an iPad, iPhone or iPod user offload some of their less urgent media to the Internet. It would also drop from $99 to free.
Social networking would also play a role, though how wasn't described. It wouldn't require a brand new phone and would work with at least the iPhone 4.
MobileMe's upgrade is tentatively slated for June, according to the tips, but whether or not that would take place isn't certain. True to earlier rumors, Apple has to negotiate media licenses to clear the remote storage. Music labels in particular have often insisted that cloud storage of a user's own music counts as a second use and have tried to double-dip by charging for a second purchasing license.
The company's newly readied North Carolina data center may be evidence of the plans as the extra-large facility would be ideal for streaming large amounts of Internet traffic.
Both initiatives are almost certainly intended to target areas where Android was either first or hasn't explored at all. Apple has had success lowering the effective price of the iPhone to where it's now free on contract on some carriers, but Android devices can now cost significantly less while still offering competent though not as powerful features. An LG Optimus V, which can run Android 2.2 quickly, costs $150 even without a contract.
Google meanwhile has often had an edge over Apple in the cloud with Android. Its inherent advantage in focusing on web services like Gmail and Google Calendar has meant users could always get much of their non-media information back on a new or restored phone just through a single sign in. It hasn't, however, had fully integrated file or media storage.
Google has been facing the same obstacles as Apple but has also floated the possibility of a subscription fee if it ever gets the rights.