Apple will ship a faster 3G iPhone next year, said AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson.

Stephenson revealed the news at a recent dinner in Silicon Valley - but like any Apple partner played scant on the detail, beyond promising its arrival next year.

The news - the latest in a long line of 3G iPhone for 2008 claims - may serve to limit iPhone sales, some analysts warn. However, users who do defer for 3G iPhones next year will still make the move to an Apple device when an improved model ships.

"In the longer term, having a truly capable 3G phone is good for them,” Barry Jaruzelski, a consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton told the Financial Times. “It dramatically expands the iPhone's market and relative competitiveness, particularly in Europe.”

In related news, Apple has filed a new patent that could enable wireless transactions on an iPhone, and includes such features as access to restaurant menus and (seemingly) online shopping services beyond those offered by Apple. The patent includes a mechanism for merchants to report a stolen iPod/iPhone.