I suppose it’s possible that Apple could be working with Cingular on a mobile phone sold exclusively by the latter. Almost anything is possible.
It isn’t probable, however, and David Pogue does a commendable job explaining why on his New York Times blog. As Pogue opines:
The problem is that when you build a cellphone, the carriers (Verizon, Cingular, etc.) have veto power over EVERY move you make. You have to fight, wheedle, cajole, beg, demo, refine, lather, rinse, repeat…all in hopes that the carriers will accept your design–and stock your phone.
I cannot imagine Apple giving veto power to ANYONE over its software design. It just ain’t gonna happen.
Pogue’s reasoning is sound.
It’s unlikely that Apple would be able to make the endless design compromises and business accommodations that are conceded on a regular basis by mobile-phone market leaders such as Nokia and Motorola. Those companies, too, would enthusiastically embrace more creative freedom, and more business latitude, in their relationships with wireless operators, but they know such a favorable state of affairs is unlikely to materialize.
In the world as we find it today, wireless operators control the relationship with the mobile-phone customer. Handset vendors are equipment suppliers, and their customers, unfortunately, are the wireless operators, not the ultimate consumers of their products. They’re at one remove from the customer.
Is that a situation that Apple would amenable? Even if did, is there any reasonable expectation that the bastardized and neutered products that eventually filtered through the process would meet the aesthetic and functional standards of Apple’s iPod and other products?
Don’t get excited about the prospect of an Apple iPhone. Even in the remote likelihood that it comes to pass, it won’t be up to Apple’s usual standards. Remember the ROKR? Well, you’d probably see an incremental improvement on something like that.
Perhaps it’s better than Apple stay away from the mobile-phone market, at least for now.