A little over a month ago, the next update to the iPhone firmware - OS 3.1 beta - was released to developers. With the updated firmware, there are a number of bug fixes and a few new features, including voice control over Bluetooth, copy and paste for phone numbers, vibration feedback when re-arranging screen icons, and more. However, the most notable change in the latest OS update is the re-inclusion of MMS. For unknown reasons, this feature was removed from the fifth beta and the public release of the OS, but now it's back and enabled by default. Although the functionality isn't working over the AT&T network yet, there are reports that the next iPhone update will indeed enable MMS. The only question is when?
MMS Switched on in New Firmware
There are several reasons to believe why the upcoming iPhone OS 3.1 update will include MMS. Most importantly is the fact that the update firmware actually includes the functionality switched on by default. There are changes AT&T will have to make in order for it to work, of course, but now all that's left is for AT&T to "flip the switch," so to speak.
Although Apple hasn't officially confirmed a release date for the OS 3.1 update, it's expected to arrive sometime in September. That timing nicely coincides with AT&T's public statement that MMS will arrive "later this summer." (September is still summer, right?) An anonymous commenter on iPhone-watching blog FSM said that a rep told him the release date is September 6th and, at the latest, September 8th, but obviously, you can't put any weight behind those statements (you can only hope!).
When we spoke to an AT&T rep ourselves, we were told to wait until the "end of August or beginning of September" - which isn't really new information, unfortunately. However, the rep also said that Apple "has the update already" and that AT&T is "just waiting for Apple to release it." This statement could easily be construed to mean that when Apple releases the updated firmware that is OS 3.1, AT&T will be ready to turn on MMS functionality. Another reason why this seems plausible is because the rep said you'll be alerted to the update via a text message - the same procedure they've used in the past to alert you to new iPhone firmware releases.
All Signs Point to MMS in OS 3.1
Then there is the fact that multiple blogs are reporting news from anonymous AT&T tipsters saying that MMS will be enabled via the next iPhone OS update. In fact, according to iPhone Hacks, there have been a couple of instances where developers reported that they already had MMS working, although somewhat sporadically. Take that with a grain of salt, though.
Finally, there are reports that the latest OS 3.1 beta is disabling the hacks that made tethering and MMS possible via unsupported methods on AT&T iPhones. Some of the hacks even allowed you to enable these functions without going through the process of "jailbreaking" the phone - a special type of hack which enables you to install third-party applications hosted outside of the iTunes App Store. Of course, disabling hacks like this via an update seems par for the course for Apple, but considering all these rumors, it could be another item that points to the possibility of OS 3.1 delivering MMS to AT&T customers. After all, what better way to make sure AT&T customers have to start paying for its use with their text messaging bundle?
Of course, without official statements from either company, there's no way to be 100% certain that the iPhone OS 3.1 will be the vehicle delivering MMS, but considering all of the above factors, it does seem likely.