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Apple expected to unveil faster iPhone today

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In what could be the worst-kept technology secret of the year, Apple Inc. chief executive officer Steve Jobs is expected to unveil the next evolution of the company's game-changing iPhone today.

The updated iPhone will almost certainly run on the most advanced wireless networks yet available, and will promise customers the ability to surf the Web and stream video at speeds comparable to home broadband connections.

Analysts say the “3G” iPhone will give Apple the technology it needs to become a global cellphone powerhouse, and for Rogers Wireless Communications Inc., the Canadian carrier of the device, iPhone version 2.0 represents a potential windfall of new revenue.

Although most analysts expect Mr. Jobs will show off the new iPhone when he delivers the keynote address at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference today, what new features will be included in the updated version of the touch-screen device, whether the company will continue to sell its older 2G models, and when it will arrive in Canada all remain unknown.

“Apple plays their cards very close to the vest,” said Van Baker, a senior analyst with market research firm Gartner Inc. “Those are all open questions.”

Among the rumoured new features are a front-facing camera for video calling, larger storage capacity than the current eight GB and 16 GB models and a GPS chip – which would provide better location-based capability than the device's current cellphone tower triangulation technology.

Mr. Jobs will also likely demonstrate a number of new third-party applications developed by non-Apple programmers that will be available via the iPhone Application Store, also expected to be unveiled at the conference.

The new Apps store will allow iPhone users to download Apple-sanctioned software such as games, news feeds and mapping programs through the iTunes music store.

Since going on sale in the United States on June 29 last year, the iPhone has captured 20 per cent of the U.S. smart phone market, and is a rising global star, accounting for more than 5 per cent of the worldwide market for Internet-enabled cellphones in the first three months of 2008, says market research firm IDC.

Mr. Jobs' stated goal is to sell 10 million iPhones by the end of 2008. Most observers say the company is on pace to sell 13 million to 15 million iPhones by the end of the year.

Since bottoming out below $116 (U.S.) in February, Apple's share price has ballooned 60 per cent, closing at $185.64 on Friday.

In addition to a new high-end model, Apple could also be prepping a smaller, less expensive iPhone, similar to the way the company produces both the iPod Touch music player as well as lower-cost Nano and Shuffle devices, said Kasper Jade, publisher of AppleInsider.com.

Canada is among a group of nearly 50 new markets the iPhone is expected to reach this year, a list that includes Japan, Spain, Australia and Egypt.

A 3G device is critical to Apple's global strategy since customers in many Asian and European markets are accustomed to faster Web browsing speeds than the existing iPhone offers.

Those limitations have disappointed some of the first phone companies to sell the iPhone, said Mark Goldberg, of telecom consulting firm Mark H. Goldberg and Associates.


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