Some of us have been confused since the moment the iPhone was announced with a lack of support for 3G (third generation) networks. The iPhone is, after all, a next generation device. Why, then, would a next generation device lack support for the next generation of wireless mobile connectivity?
For investors, the question may have farther reaching implications. A recent informal survey by InformationWeek suggested that a majority of prospective European customers would not consider purchasing the iPhone due to the lack of 3G support. In Europe, 3G services are more widespread and day to day usage of common mobile features would be either impossible or considerably unbearable without third generation data speeds.
It is likely, however, that European customers won't have to worry about whether or not to buy a 3G-lacking iPhone.
Early reports have indicated that the iPhone will be released in Europe either late in 2007 or early in 2008. Though unconfirmed, some outlets have made mention of an October iPhone launch in Europe.
Apple, savvy as they are, are unlikely to release a non-3G version of the iPhone in Europe. Though the lack of 3G on the upcoming US version of the iPhone (June 2007) has been questioned, most US consumers won't be bothered by the lack of support. Most US customers use their devices for non 3G applications, such as voice calls and SMS, especially due to the lack of 3G services in the states. In Europe, as previously mentioned, 3G has been around for years and cannot easily be ignored.
Many things have pointed towards a 3G iPhone headed to Europe. Reports early this year from Japanese and Taiwanese iPhone component manufacturers indicated that Apple was preparing to build two versions of the initial iPhone - both a GSM/EDGE and a 3G version. It was later reported that European service providers, considering backing out of a comittment to offer the iPhone to their customers due to delays and a lack of third generation network support, were given assurance that the GSM/EDGE would be available to them by September 2007, with a 3G version overseas by January 2008.
All of this stands to reason. Apple has been forthcoming about both its intention to develop a 3G version of the iPhone (and soon) as well as it's reasoning behind leaving 3G out of the upcoming innaugural release. Third generation technology, especially when intermittent, is a major drain on battery power. In the US, 3G service is not available in most areas. Although AT&T is continuously expanding its 3G coverage, until recently only a limited number of major metropolitan regions offered support for third generation devices. The addition of 3G to the initial US of the iPhone, some have suggested, would be more of a wasteful nuisance than a valuable addition.
European customers likely have little to worry about. If not immediately available upon the European iPhone launch, a 3G version will not be far behind.