iPhone 5 rumor rollup for the week ending Sept. 9

Inventories of Apple iPhone 4 smartphones, carrier promotions and fake iPhone 5 documents, plus third-party cases and a magic number of 27 million

President Barack Obama's jobs speech this week might have been better received if he kept repeating, "Release this iPhone right away!" The iOSsphere this week seized on iPhone 4 inventory levels, carrier promotional documents, third-party phone cases, and reports of plans to build 27 million Next iPhones by January to reassure itself that The Wait is nearing an end.

This week: speculation that the "iPhone 5" is really a redesigned iPod Touch with a 3G data option, and a photograph not of the iPhone 5 but taken by the iPhone 5.

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You read it here second.

"It's all so very confusing." -- Charlie Sorrel, Wired.com's Gadget Lab

The "iPhone 5" is actually the "iPad Nano."

That's how Charlie Sorrel, at Wired's Gadget Lab, sorts out the persistent, and persistently confusing, rumors that variously portray the Next iPhone as 1) having a bigger screen, smaller bezel, thinner case, and 2) as just a tweak of the current iPhone 4 by adding a more powerful CPU, and 3) as being a cheaper, smaller, prepaid phone.

Unfortunately, Sorrel's post adds considerably to the confusion. He alternates using the terms "iPad Touch" and "iPod Touch" and "iPad Nano." He asks, "What if [these rumors] are instead mixing up an iPhone 4S (faster A5 chip, better camera) and a replacement for the iPad Touch -- an iPad Nano, if you will?"

There is of course currently no "iPad Touch." The iPad is Apple's large-format tablet. The iPod Touch is the Wi-Fi-only mobile device that closely resembles the iPhone, but lacks a 3G cellular radio. The iPod Nano is the newest design for Apple's popular music player: now a small square with multi-touch screen.

What Sorrel seems to be saying is, "What if Apple plans the Next iPhone as a beefed-up, prepaid iPhone 4, which we can call iPhone 4S? And also a larger-screened version of the iPod Touch that includes a 3G option, similar to that found in some iPad models, which we can call the iPad Nano?"

The current iPod Touch is "fantastic" he says, but lacks the always-on cellular link of the iPhone. Which is fine with Touch users because they "don't want a cellphone contract. If they did, they'd buy an iPhone."

But Apple could create new iPod models, one with only Wi-Fi, another with Wi-Fi and 3G (and GPS) and all of them, with bigger, 4-inch screens. They can use data-only communications alternatives like Apple's FaceTime video chat and iMessage as replacements for voice calls, and select just a monthly data plan that makes sense for their budget, without being tied into a two-year carrier contract. (Sorrel notes that FaceTime doesn't currently run over 3G but many expect that to change with the release of iOS 5 in the coming weeks.)

Refreshingly, he freely admits "this post is pure speculation." But it is, for a change, intriguing speculation.

iPhone 5 "launches" first week of October, and Sprint will have it.

BoyGeniusReport has a picture of what it says is a Best Buy internal document, which shows, according to BGR's headline, "Best Buy anticipating iPhone 5 for Sprint, preorders starting next month."

But BeatWeek has a counter-source that says the document is a hoax designed to smoke out sneaky, untrustworthy, information-leaking Best Buy employees. Despite that, the fake is true.

The actual text on the purported document reads: "iPhone 5 product introduction expected, pre-sales begin for expected October week 1 launch/ Sprint launches iPhone 5." It adds the caution, "Apple product introduction/Launch dates subject to change."

In an update to the post, BGR says its source, a Best Buy employee, "clarified that it's actually possible presales will be starting this week [week of 5 September] with the phone arriving in the first week of October, not preorders starting in October." They'll have to step lively, since as this rumor roll-up is posted, it's Friday, Sept. 9.

Neither of these two developments -- early October launch or Sprint finally offering an iPhone -- is new, so the document fits into the "more evidence that a rumor actually might turn out to be true sooner or later" phase of rumorification, as Ars Technica explicitly declares in its account.

Beatweek says this is all hogwash that, somewhat mysteriously, proves that it's not hogwash after all. The document "is a fake designed to identify potential leakers within the retailer, according to a source. The report garnered some level of initial suspicion as it also included the claim that iPhone 5 preorders would begin this week even as Apple has yet to introduce the device."

That is rather "suspicious." But having said the document is a fake, Beatweek then says it's only "apparently phony." And in any case, the document is actually telling the truth because "multiple other pieces of evidence point to both an October release date and Sprint participation."

Fake evidence that turns out not to be fake! Only in the iOSsphere is such a marvel possible.

If you're waiting longer for your new iPhone 4, it means the iPhone 5 is near.

You know how else you can tell that the iPhone 5 is nigh? Because you have to wait longer to get an iPhone 4. Picking up an original post at BoyGeniusReport, which said "delivery times" have increased from 24 hours to one to three days, Slashgear observed, "When a product that has been around for a while and is generally available in plenty of volume to meet the demands for the consumer starts to see ship dates grow, it's often a good indication that the new version is near." That's because it means Apple is clearing out its iPhone 4 inventory to make room for iPhone 5 stock.

BGR updated its post Friday morning to note that now Apple's website doesn't mention anything about delivery times, only that the iPhone 4 is "in stock."

And that's often a good indication that the new version is even nearer.

iPhone 5 will have an 8-megapixel camera for sure.

PocketNow doesn't have a photo of the Next iPhone. But it does claim to have a photo taken by the next iPhone.

The photo shows the lunch (sushi, including California sushi which uses avocado instead of fish) of an "Apple engineer" who, according to the PocketNow story (and amplified by PC Mag), first posted it to his Flickr account, and then marked it private once the news went viral.

And how do we know it's taken by the iPhone 5? Because, though the engineer's post claims the picture was snapped with an iPhone 4's 5-megapixel camera, PocketNow says the photo's metadata reveals the original picture could only have been taken by a camera with more megapixels: The original picture is "3264x2448 -- or just shy of eight megapixels."

"What's more," writes Evan Blass, "the lens was recorded as a 4.3mm f/2.4, which is closer to that of a point-and-shoot than the iPhone 4's actual 3.85mm f/2.8."

PC Mag's story says the GPS data associated with the original Flickr photo pinpointed "1 Infinite Loop, Apple's famous address" in Cupertino.

Perhaps the most important, yet unremarked upon, detail of the photo: It shows the Apple cafeteria serves sushi with what looks like really fresh shaved ginger root.

Good news: iPhone 5 will be a big redesign after all. Maybe.

AppleInsider gleaned this insight through a detailed examination of new "third-party [phone] cases from the Far East." These reveal that the iPhone 5 will be a "thinner device with a flat back and curved sides."

And the phone's mute switch has been switched to the left side above the volume buttons.

The cases supposedly are from Shenzhen L&Y Technology, a China-based manufacturer of accessories for mobile devices, including iPads and iPhones.

QED. Except, as the same AppleInsider post noted, "a number of leaked components have shown a next-generation handset with the same size and shape as the iPhone 4." AppleInsider's Aug. 29 story showed pictures of a purported iPhone 5 prototype featuring "a screen size and design that appears largely identical to the current iPhone 4." Baffling, eh?

The pictures "all but confirm form factor redesign," according to Cam Bunton at Today's iPhone. He's not baffled. "With so many manufacturers creating these cases, it's certainly a good sign that we should see a larger iPhone come October," he writes. "If it's packing the dual-core A5 and a 4" Retina display along with these design changes, I'll be a very happy customer."

Whatever iPhone 5 looks like, there will be about 27 million of them by year-end.

DigiTimes' usual unnamed industry sources say Apple's iPhone manufacturers are ramping up production of the Next iPhone.

OEM FoxConn Electronics is now creating 150,000 units daily, according to those sources, who also say FoxConn will crank out 5 million to 6 million units in September, and more than 22 million more by year-end.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

Email: john_cox@nww.com

Blog RSS feed: http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/2989/feed

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