Would a GPhone Outdo the iPhone?

A new "GPhone" is headed this way, soon. But Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) won't build this one. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) will.

That's the rumor, at least. In the digital industry, there have long been unsourced reports that there would be a 3G iPhone. With no reason to take them seriously till this week's CTIA show, sponsored by the international association for the wireless industry, in Las Vegas. There, Ralph de la Vega, president of AT&T's (NYSE: T  ) Mobility group, said that all of the smartphones supported by the carrier would soon be migrated to higher-speed data networks.

AT&T supports smartphones from Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) , Palm (Nasdaq: PALM  ) , and Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) , as well as Apple's iPhone. When asked whether his comments meant the iPhone would be made to support 3G, or "third-generation" networks, de la Vega responded, "I'm talking about months for all the integrated devices to be 3G, and I mean months. I think that should be clear enough."

Well then, there you have it. A 3G iPhone is in the works. AT&T just said so.

If that's exciting to you, it should be: A 3G model would allow for direct, on-network download speeds comparable to what you'd expect from a broadband Wi-Fi connection. But with 3G, you'd have broadband access anywhere, anytime.

And yet I think Foolish colleague Dave Mock has it right. Apple couldn't care less about selling a 3G iPhone, especially here in the U.S. Retail sales might improve some, but the iPhone is already a best-seller. So why do it? Partners.

Vodafone's CEO, Arun Sarin, is on record as saying he'd like to offer the iPhone to customers when it's ready for Europe's 3G networks.

But the iPhone already has a presence in Europe. I'm more interested in China. Last November, Apple and China Mobile (NYSE: CHL  ) discussed the possibility of introducing the iPhone to the People's Republic. By December, the talks had ended, according to published reports.

What hasn't ended is China Mobile's interest in 3G technology. Next month, the carrier will begin an experiment with 25,000 3G handsets in eight cities. So far, there's no indication that Apple would be involved. And yet I find it interesting that a 3G iPhone could emerge just as China Mobile is testing the technology for widespread use.

Coincidence? You tell me.

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