Irvine (CA) - Linksys today launched a new phone that many expected to be announced by Apple in early January: A device with the name iPhone will be available from wireless equipment maker Linksys in the first quarter of next year.
But besides the name, there is little the Linksys device has in common with what we expected the iPhone to be. Instead of a cellphone with iPod functionality, the iPhone WIP320 is a Wi-Fi Skype phone that appears to be a clone to already released models from Netgear and Belkin. It comes preloaded with a Skype client and does not need a computer to be running in order to be able to make Skype or phone calls. According to Linksys, the WIP320 is compatible with Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g networks and has an indoor range of about 75 m (230 ft).
The company will also be offering a DECT Skype phone, which uses a base station with integrated voice terminal to connect to the Skype service.
The announcement can be confusing, especially with Linksys' claim that the company "has shipped more than 3 million VoIP products worldwide, including seven phones in its iPhone product line." To our knowledge, the use of the iPhone brand is new and you could call Linksys' announcement "backwards branding" that takes advantage of the current hype around a soon to be expected Apple cellphone.
The Linksys iPhone suggests that Apple will not be using that name for its cellphone. In fact, Linksys has trademarked "iPhone" already back in 1999, when it described the device as "computer hardware and software for providing integrated telephone communication with computerized global information networks." Apple's iPhone is likely to be merely a fabrication or code-name with the actual device, which is expected to be unveiled on January 9 at the Macworld Expo conference in San Francisco. Apple's list of trademarks actually does not list a single entry that directly refers to a cellular phone at this time, which suggests that Apple may be using the iPod brand for the upcoming phone.
There are very few details available about Apple's phone at this time. However, Morgan Stanley analyst Rebecca Runkle recently cited industry sources claiming that the phone will be a flash-memory based product that "will be wider than the iPod Nano, and thinner than the Video, with a 3.5" LCD screen." Runkle said that the phone will be available in multiple colors and be priced at $600 for a 4 GB model and at $650 for the 8 GB version. Cingular Wireless is expected to be the carrier offering the phone in the U.S.