3G iPhone to debut in T-minus 60 days?

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3G iPhone to debut in T-minus 60 days?

Chicago (IL) – A 3G iPhone debut suddenly has become much more credible, as of two additional sources that are now participating in the general rumor mill. AT&T’s chief executive confirmed that a 3G iPhone will be available “in months” and WSJ’s Walt Mossberg narrowed that expectation down to 60 days, pointing to a WWDC introduction. Are there any doubts left?

When Mossberg was speaking this weekend at a tech conference in Washington DC, he mainly criticized US mobile networks and broadband services. But at one point, he caused a wave of excitement by claiming that a 3G iPhone will be announced within 60 days. You can watch the video here (the claim is about 6:53 in).

It’s no secret that Mossberg is a special journalist with lots of secret connections into executive offices. Remember, this is the guy that got the iPhone from Apple two weeks before the handset went on sale so he could spend some quality time with the device (yes, there were a handful of other publications that had early reviews as well). With that kind of privilege, who would doubt that this 60-day information in fact comes directly from Apple and in fact has been approved for publication?

3G iPhone rumors took off about two weeks ago when Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney mentioned in an interview with the iPod Observer that Apple has ordered 10 million 3G iPhone units from the world’s largest builder of electronics components, Hon Hai. Bank of America analyst Scott Craig followed Dulaney by estimating shipments of 3G iPhones at about three million for May and eight million for the third quarter. The iPod Observer further fueled speculations by floating an image of an alleged 3G iPhone prototype, dressed in a new black casing.

Gizmodo recently reported that AT&T CEO Ralph de la Vega told PC Magazine’s  Sacha Segan during a press lunch at CTIA in Las Vegas (yes, it is getting complicated). Segan apparently asked if there was any connection between a 3G iPhone and AT&T’s claim that all smartphones offered by the carrier will be 3G soon. According to Gizmodo,  de la Vega answered: “I think that you’re going to see our integrated devices be 3G devices in the not-too-distant future, and I mean months. That should be clear enough.” Given the fact that AT&T is Apple’s exclusive wireless operator and iPhone distributor in the U.S., it would be impossible for the AT&T CEO to be out of the loop with Apple or to make such comments on his own.

It looks to us that Apple will introduce the handset during the June 10 WWDC keynote. Question, however, remain when this new iPhone will be available and how much it will cost. Apple recently has shown a trend to increase the average selling prices of its iPod product family and a 3G upgrade certainly would justify a higher price, subjectively. But Apple also has a shipment target of 1% of the cellphone market, which means that the company aims to sell about 11 million iPhones this year: To reach that goal, it will need phones that are much cheaper than what the current generation is going for ($400).

In our opinion, there’s a high chance of June launch at the moment. Apple needs to act soon as competitors are beginning to close the gap. Although the mobile industry isn’t there yet when it comes to overtaking the iPhone (“Will we ever see an iPhone killer“), other players will eventually catch up. Apple needs to update iPhone’s hardware to match specs of competing handsets and innovate further in order to widen the gap and extends its lead.

If you ask us, we would point to the end of June when the iPhone will become available for purchase. Why? Well, the iPhone 2.0 software update is scheduled for late June release. What better timing could there be than to launch the new software with a new device? But, of course, all 3G iPhone information has to be taken with a grain of salt. Although we are pretty confident that there will be a 3G iPhone in stores this June, nothing is certain until Steve Jobs pulls such a phone out of his pocket.

What do you think about the upcoming 3G iPhone? Are we looking to WWDC introduction and a June 30 shipping date? Share your opinion by writing a comment below.