New iPhone details leaked, Apple adopts new business model

Rumours about the new iPhone are flying about the web - there are even pictures of the new, thinner model at crunchgear.

Apparently the pictures are from Apple or AT&T promotional material and show that the next generation device has stereo speakers on the back and what appears to be the same screen as the current generation. As crunchgear puts it, "the real news here isn't the Exchange support, but the front facing camera for iChat AV."

The promotional blurb says, " Video just became a little more fun. Start a real time video chat with other AT&T subscribers via 3G networking, or with iChat buddies via WiFi. The video calling revolution has begun."

That remains to be seen, but the launch of the new version is a sea change in Apple's strategy: it will be sold for a lot less because the manufacturer has been obliged to give into pressure from operators who want to subsidise the iPhone through bundles.

Giving the operators a freer hand should boost Apple's chance of hitting its own target of selling 10 million phones this year. So far Apple has sold 1.7 million.

According to the Financial Times, citing people close to the situation, Apple has also given up the portion of the monthly revenue paid to operators by iPhone users.

How much these changes help iPhone to gain acceptance in Asia is unclear, although shares in Japanese operator Softbank rose at the end of last week when it was announced that Softbank, not its much bigger rival DoCoMo, is to sell the iPhone.

Softbank is an interesting choice for Apple. It has made inroads into its much larger, longer established competitors through low cost bundles and its imaginative range of handsets.

However, as the Japanese are the world's biggest mobile data users by a huge margin - and touch phones are already available - it remains to be seen whether it will achieve the same iconic status in Japan.

Softbank has about 20% the Japanese market (it bought Vodafone's Japanese operations in 2006). DoCoMo has just over half of the market and KDDI almost a third.