Apple to Unveil iTunes Mototola Phone soon

Apple is planning a big launch is known. The invites went out this week - much to the astonishment of Apple subsidiary FileMaker, which had already invited the top "industry opinion formers" to an announcement of its own - but that there will be an iTunes phone is now accepted as fact, as is the unconfirmed report that the phone will be sold in North America through the Cingular network.

But either Apple has kept the thing under unprecedented security, or else it has a dud on its hands. According to Forbes reporters David M. Ewalt and Peter Kafka, it's no rival to MP3-playing phones. For a start, the music will be costly to download, at $2 a tune; but first leaks suggest that won't matter, because you won't be able to download enough to break the bank.

"A person who has seen a version of the phone says it was designed to accommodate just 25 songs, which would be 'sideloaded' from a user's computer using iTunes," said Forbes. "The phone was equipped with a 128-megabyte Sandisk TransFlash memory card - just one-quarter the capacity of Apple's smallest iPod, the 512-megabyte Shuffle, which holds about 120 songs."

Bad news, but not the whole story, say sources, including Best Syndication, which says, confidently that "The iPod phone will be available in two models. Customers will have a choice between 512MB or 1GB of storage. The 1GB model can hold up to 240 songs." Forbes acknowledges that it hasn't seen all possible prototypes, reports Register.

According to Reuters,the iTunes phone is not the only rumored advancement of Apple's digital music strategy that could be addressed Wednesday (September 7). Other potential announcements include an iPod that supports video playback, a line of flash-based iPod Mini devices or iTunes support of a portable subscription service.

The video iPod and the flash-based Minis are considered inevitable. Apple recently changed the language in its iPod patent to include video as one of the files it can display, and iTunes already sells some music-video content.

Although initially critical of flash-based digital music players, Apple has since embraced the technology for its iPod Shuffle. Many expect the company to introduce a flash-based version of the popular iPod Mini in time for the holiday sales season. (Research firm iSuppli reported that Apple has bought as much as 40 percent of Samsung's flash-chip inventory for the second half of this year.)

A music subscription service is considered a long shot for Apple at this time, even though CEO Steve Jobs recently has relaxed his criticism of such services. Analysts generally agree that Apple will wait until there is more interest in portable subscriptions before releasing such an upgrade.