The next iPhone will have a "friend finder" feature or app similar to Google's Latitude service. It will have built-in support for Wi-Fi hotspots (where the phone is the hotspot that supports up to five other devices). And it will have several other refinements and tweaks.
The next iPad will have a screen that's the same resolution, but it will gain a camera.
How do I know all this? Well, I don't. These are educated guesses. That education comes courtesy of a new beta version of the software that powers these devices.
Beta-mining the new iOSGuessing what Apple will do next is the new Kremlinology. Every scheduled event is preceded by massive speculation about what kinds of products they'll launch and what direction CEO Steve Jobs will take the company.
So it's nice to have facts, even if they're cryptic, mysterious and often open to interpretation.
Apple released a new beta version to developers this week of its operating system for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Apple TV labeled the iOS 4.3. The software contains rich nuggets of Apple Kremlinology gold.
New versions of any operating system must be compatible with any hardware that comes out before the next release. Software sleuths pouring through the new beta's code found five future devices that the software has been designed to support: two new iPhones and three new iPads.
These five devices are more likely just one new version each of the iPhone and iPad -- one iPhone for each type of carrier (one for GSM networks like AT&T and another for CDMA networks like Verizon) and one iPad for each carrier, plus one that doesn't use mobile broadband data (like the current Wi-Fi-only iPad).
Apple tends to release new iOS versions more than twice a year, so we can expect these new devices soon -- probably before summer.
The new iOS has some features that will work with existing iPhones and iPads.
For multi-touch gestures fans (like Yours Truly), one exciting change is a new gesture for going to the home screen: Place all your fingers on the screen and pull them toward the center.
A new "swipe up" gesture reveals the multitasking tray, which is currently displayed with a double press of the front button.
Another new gesture is to swipe left or right while an app is running to toggle between open apps.
The most interesting fact about these gestures is that they make the iPad's one and only front-facing Home button redundant. So there's a good chance that future iPads won't have the Home button.
A blog called the Boy Genius Report, which has a solid track record of publishing inside information about Apple products and other gadgets, claims to have an Apple source that says the Home button will go away not only on future iPads, but on future iPhones as well.
Right now, iPhones can register only two points of touch. If the multi-finger gesture is to be introduced to iPhone, it will have to be upgraded to register multiple points of touch, which enables new gestures and options for app developers.
(Some developers with the new beta, by the way, have reported that the new gestures don't work. But, hey, that's what beta programs are for.)
It's also worth noting that a new "Multitasking Gestures" item has been added to the Settings list, and they can all be turned On or Off. Assuming that future iPads won't have the front button, that option would go away for buttonless iPads.
The new iOS reveals new camera or video effects, colorfully labeled "X-Ray, kaleidoscope, light tunnel, compress and thermic camera." The next iPad will also have a camera, or at least that's suggested by the discovery of shutter screen images found in the new iOS software development kit (SDK).
The resolution on the images is 1024 x 768 -- the same resolution as the current iPad, suggesting no upgrade on screen resolution for the next iPad.
The original iPad enabled users to lock the rotation, so that when you held the iPad in a different orientation, it didn't rotate around to self-correct. But in iOS 4.2, Apple transformed the purpose of that button to mute the sound on the device. It looks like in the new beta, however, users will be given an option for the button and will be able to choose one behavior or the other.
Announcing iPhone support this week, Verizon promised the ability to use the iPhone for a Wi-Fi hotspot that supports up to five devices. The new iOS explicitly supports that feature, and gives users the option to turn it on and off. That it's built-in suggests other carriers might support the feature.
The new iOS also gets a smattering of very small features, including the ability to set the number of SMS alert tones to up to 10 times (before giving up and remaining quiet). The look of the keyboard is slightly different. There's a goofy new font called "Noteworthy." Advertisers will be given the option to display full-screen ads in iAd.
It also appears that the new iOS won't work on the iPhone 3G or the 2nd-generation iPod Touch (the current version is the 4th generation).
You can never know for sure what Apple is going to do next. But mysterious, cryptic clues in the new beta of iOS 4.3 is solid evidence of future directions.