Clues uncovered in the iPhone OS 4.0 developer preview released Thursday suggest the next iPhone model may get a front-facing camera and a built-in camera flash.
Rumors about a front-facing camera and flash for the iPhone have been part of fanboy wishlists and rumors for at least a year, but more reports about a front-facing camera have resurfaced in recent weeks. As always, no one knows for sure what new features the next iPhone will have, but these latest rumors have a little more weight than usual since they are based on discoveries in the new iPhone OS. That's by no means a guarantee, since these clues may not be meant for the iPhone at all -- they could be instead part of future plans for the iPad or even the iPod Touch. It's also possible these functions could be discarded altogether.
Apple typically releases a new iPhone model in June during the company's annual Worldwide Developers Conference, so we don't have long to wait. Here's what we're seeing so far.
The Unofficial Apple Weblog says it has uncovered evidence that suggests the next iPhone could be getting a front-facing camera. Two separate TUAW readers forwarded screenshots that show an operating system process called iChatAgent running in the background of devices running the iPhone OS 4.0 developer preview. IChat is Apple's video conferencing and instant messaging application that comes installed on every Mac OS X computer, and the Mac version of iChat uses the same iChatAgent process when the desktop application is running.
This suggests that iPhone OS 4.0 may include an iChat application, which would, presumably, need a front-facing camera to enable iChat's video conferencing features. However, it's also possible that iChat on the iPhone would only have text-based instant messaging instead of the full-blown features found on the desktop version. Another possibility is that iChat functionality is meant for the iPad, another iPhone OS-based device, which is scheduled to receive its OS upgrade this fall from iPhone OS 3.2 to a version of iPhone OS 4.0.
When Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the new developer features in iPhone OS 4.0, Jobs said app makers would have "full access to still and video camera data." Apparently, the new developer access to the iPhone camera includes new built-in flash functions, according to . The iPhone OS software reportedly gives developer access to two new camera functions -- a normal camera flash (called AVCaptureDevice.flashMode in the iPhone SDK) and a flashlight (AVCaptureDevice.hasTorch) -- torch is a British term for flashlight. This is not the first time we've heard of a built-in flash coming to the iPhone. In January, AppleInsider reported that Apple was trying to "purchase LED camera flash components in the tens of millions for delivery during the 2010 calendar year."
As developers have more time to experiment with the new iPhone OS SDK, it's likely more rumors will surface about new functions that may be coming to Apple's next iPhone model. Earlier this month, blogger John Gruber, who has a fairly good record on predicting iPhone features, suggested the next iPhone would have a higher resolution screen and a new Apple-branded CPU/GPU hybrid chip.