AT&T Talks Up Future of the iPhone

AT&T has a lot of interesting plans for the iPhone. And I am not just talking about 3G tethering, which a lot of people have been doing for months...

Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T's mobility business, revealed a torrent of plans, some interesting, some a bit "out there," for the future direction of the iPhone at this week's Web 2.0 Conference.

Here's a breakdown of what he thinks we'll see in the iPhone:

  • It will be able to talk to your coffee maker while you sleep and have a cup of joe ready for you when you wake up. I had this a few years ago with a timer and didn't need an iPhone. Perhaps when Wifi enabled coffeemakers hit the streets this will have some value - though it is hard to see.
  • You can send your news feeds from the iPhone to your TV. Nice. Or they have this thing called a computer that does this - which also happens to be way easier to read.
  • Use your iPhone to lock the door on the way out of the house, then unlock the car. Wireless keys, that is actually a good idea. The fear is when you inevitably lose your iPhone, you also lose your car keys and your security.
  • On the way to work, the iPhone continues reading your news to you using its text-to-speech function. That also sounds cool. Almost as cool as a podcast but in a funky, monotone computer voice.
  • The iPhone initiates a conference call between you and two potential customers in Japan. Oh really? Perhaps it should check with me first.
  • On the call, when you speak English, the iPhone translates it to Japanese so that your potential customers can understand you. When they answer in Japanese, the iPhone converts their speech into English so you can understand them. This is cool, but at the moment huge mainframes can't handle this. I'm not looking for this functionality to come in the next firmware update.
  • AT&T's fiber optic based IPTV service will be integrated. The iPhone can be a remote control or the actual viewing device. Cool, I can plug my iPhone into fiber optics rather than use it wirelessly. Maybe this idea is better for fixed devices? Also, it is a remote for iTunes - which could do live as much as anything else. As far as IPTV is concerned, bring it on! I'd be happy with the Slingbox client already.
  • AT&T says it will begin using a new swath of 850 MHz spectrum to deliver a clearer, stronger signal in densely populated areas. De la Vega also says his company will be market testing femtocell technology in some markets in 2009. That means a hardware update. Blah!

Frankly, a lot of these ideas seem cool - but they aren't new or revolutionary. Some of them are pretty silly and don't seem well thought out either.

Overall, it makes me think AT&T should really focus on getting those packets to my iPhone quickly, reliably and cheaply (which really does need work).   Otherwise, keep off of the device.

Leave the creativity to Apple and third party developers.

(This article originally appeared as a blog at

This story, "AT&T Talks Up Future of the iPhone" was originally published by Computerworld.

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon