The Inside Word on the Next Apple iPhone?

According to an Apple Insider story that came out on Friday--and was apparently overlooked by the mainstream press--Apple executives said they believe "the iPhone remains in its infancy" and revealed to one analyst "a series of strategic measures they may employ in the near term to help grow the handset's share of the booming smartphone market."

Apparently, "the comments came during a meeting between senior company officials and analysts for Oppenheimer... analyst Yair Reiner said Apple sidestepped his questions on new products but remained upbeat about the potential for "considerable" growth." Reiner also wrote that Apple thinks "the iPhone is still in its early days and could gain share by: providing more functionality; lowering prices; growing geographically; or segmenting the market with different models."

So what would those models look like? Well, you could be looking at one of them right here. The image, marked as EMBARGOED appears to show an iPhone with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard.

Apple was stung earlier this year by the press attention given to Palm's announcement of the "Pre" model. It uses a large, gestured-enabled display which looks a lot like the iPhone. But the Pre also has a slide out QWERTY keyboard. Many smartphone users have expressed a preference for the tactile feedback of a "real" keyboard as opposed to the onscreen keyboard on current iPhones (which some users find unreliable and which undeniably takes up valuable screen real estate when in use).

So, does it make sense for Apple to strike back with a slide out tactile keyboard of its own? Maybe. The soon-to-be-released 3.0 iPhone software upgrade will add the long missing/awaited ability to select text and copy from one app to another (a stock feature of all Palm smartphones going back many years). Blackberry users seem loathe to give up their QWERTYs. This is one analyst that wouldn't be surprised to see Apple cave in to QWERTY pressure as well.

[Note: This blog post should not be used as a basis for investment decisions and readers are reminded that it is a blog post. We first saw this particular image at the very beginning of April.]

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