Yesterday Apple began taking orders for the new iPod Earphones with remote and mic and a support document was posted on their website (HT3310) that talked about compatibility of the new earphones and all of the iPod/iPhone models. According to the support document the new earphones are fully supported only by currently generation iPods and are partially supported by all iPhone models (volume up/down is not supported).
I talked to an Apple representative regarding a software update to the iPhone that would add support for the volume buttons on the new headphones and unfortunately (and expectedly) they didn’t have any information on any future updates that could add that functionality.
It’s possible that the reason Apple is doing this is to add some differences between the iPod and iPhone line, they did add some differences to the iPod Touch and iPhone with the most recent firmware not adding walking or transit directions to the iPod Touch and then of course we have this.
It doesn’t seem that Apple is losing any sales with the iPod Touch on the market practically competing against the iPhone but maybe Apple sees it differently.
In terms of hardware the connection is there for the iPhone to sense that the volume buttons are being pressed and I would assume that with a simple software update that functionality could be added but I guess we’ll have to wait and see for right now.
This does change my opinion on these new headphones though, I am still going to purchase them just incase volume support is added to the iPhone in the future, and besides they are the same price as the standard iPhone headphones.