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Next-gen iPhone rumored for April

When is 4G not 4G?

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The next iPhone will appear as soon as April and will include a host of upgrades that include a dual-core processor, improved graphics, video chat, an OLED display, plus - and this one is hard to believe - a removable battery.

Or so say two reports out of Korea on Tuesday, one from The Korea Times and the other from Telecoms Korea, which cites the Korean-language Etnews. The former relies for the most part on sources at Korea mobile provider KT, while the latter adds details from a mole at Apple Korea.

A KT source has built-in cred, seeing as how the company is South Korea’s second largest mobile phone carrier and Apple's Korean iPhone supplier. They're a successful partner as well, with 220,000 iPhone 3GS sales by the end of last year, according to TKT, including 60,000 sold in their first weekend of availability at the end of last November.

Although both reports refer to the upcoming Cupertino smartphone as the "iPhone 4G" or "4G iPhone," it's 99 per cent certain that the "G" refers to "generation" and not 4G wireless broadband capability as, for example, Sprint and Clearwire brand their WiMAX service.

The original iPhone was announced in January 2007 and shipped in June of that year. The iPhone 3G was announced in June 2008 and shipped in July. And the iPhone 3GS was announced and shipped in June of 2009. Ipso facto, the next iPhone would be the fourth generation, hence iPhone 4G.

But even without a 4G broadband speed bump, KT's iPhone has some enticing tricks up its unsubstantiated-rumor sleeve. According to a source that TKT identified as "a high-ranking KT executive," the new phone will have - as The Reg reported last March as a possibility for the iPhone 3GS - an OLED display, as does Google's new Nexus One.

The same exec also said that the new iPhone would have what TKT refers to as "live video chat functionalities," which the Etnews's Apple Korea mole clarified by saying that the phone would have two camera modules, one front-facing and one peeking out the back as in all previous iPhones.

One tidbit that seems out of character for Apple would be the TKT source's assertion that a removable battery for the phone "is highly likely." Seeing as how Apple has sealed all its batteries tight inside devices from the first iPod through the latest MacBooks we find this detail highly unlikely.

When the first sealed-battery MacBook was introduced one year ago, an Apple rep told The Reg that the trade-off for a lack of a user-replaceable battery was the ability to fit more battery cells inside that laptop, thus allowing for longer battery life between charges. Since the Etnews' Apple Korea mole claimed that the new iPhone would have "up to double" the battery life of the iPhone 3GS, we find a move to removable batteries questionable.

Another oddity in the KT exec's story is that the company plans to offer the new phone to large corporate clients as a "litmus test" in April, then open general sales in June - a sequence not seen in previous Apple dealings

The KT exec also told TKT that the new iPhone would have a dual-core processor and higher-resolution graphics. Whether that rumored processor upgrade would be based on the ARM Cortex-9 MPCore or ARM11 MPCore, a chip arising from Apple's own acquisition of PA Semi back in 2008, or something else entirely is of course both unknown and - without Cupertino spilling the beans - unknowable. Likewise the chip providing improved graphics, although Imagination Technologies' PowerVR SGX Series5XT GPU comes to mind.

Higher-resolution graphics seem a safe bet for the next generation of iPhones, seeing as how the current iPhone's display is a behind-the-curve HVGA 480-by-320 pixel, 3.5-inch TFT LCD, while that pesky upstart the Nexus One enjoys a lovely WVGA 800-by-480 pixel, 3.7-inch AMOLED.

Of course, rumors - even those claimed to be from informed insider sources - are to be taken lightly. But if this one is true, here's hoping that Apple doesn't tag its next phone with the name "4G" - there's enough confusion in the tech world as it is. ®

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