Following the publication of a fake picture of a supposed Apple iPhone earlier this week, it actually turns out that there could well be a phone from Apple in the pipeline and it could be here as early as January next year.
Last week French magazine 20 minutes published a 'leaked' picture of Apple's iPhone on their front page, which supposedly came direct from Apple itself.
The handset was purported to have a miniSD expansion slot, and a 2.2 megapixel camera.
This was all very believable, with the picture being published so close to the Apple Expo in Paris, but turned out to simply be a marketing ploy by the French magazine to increase circulation. The ruse was uncovered after readers called the telephone number displayed on the 'iPhone' and got through to the publishers of MacUser who, it turned out, commissioned the artist's impression for their magazine back in May.
Embarassing for the Frenchies, who had to do a quick about face and retreat, but without realising it they were actually very close to the mark.
It has been rumoured for years that Apple would one day produce a mobile phone, and that day has always been around the corner, but it looks as if that day could actually come around as early as January 2007.
Earlier this year an anonymous executive at Taiwanese phone manufacturer BenQ told the industry that Apple had been in talks with various different suppliers about production of the handset, although BenQ themselves would not be involved due to conflict of interest.
"An iPod phone is definitely coming. BenQ will not be making it as we are in competition with Apple however several of our suppliers have been approached to manufacture parts", said the BenQ executive.
It was also rumoured that Japan's Softbank were entering into a joint venture to market an Apple phone, but they dismissed any involvement as unfounded guesswork. However, Hon Hai and Green Point Enterprises ― the former was involved in the making of the iPod nano, the later current manufactures iPod plastic cases ― have not denied any such rumours.
Several Wall Street investors have also been making noises.
Johnny Chan at global investment bank J.P. Morgan reports “Apple is working on 'an iPod with phone functions' and is shopping around for an electronics manufacturer.”
Gene Munster, senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray has also suggested that an Apple branded phone could hit the market within the next six months.
In January Apple trademarked "Mobile Me", describing it as:
"Telecommunication services; electronic transmission and retrieval of data, images, audio, video and documents, including text, cards, letters, messages, mail, animations, and electronic mail, over local or global communications networks, including the internet, intranets, extranets, television, mobile communication, cellular and satellite networks; message transmission services, namely, electronic transmission of messages; telecommunication services for the dissemination of information by mobile telephone, namely the transmission of data to mobile telephones; mobile telephone communication services.
Providing digital music from local or global communications networks, including the internet, intranets, extranets, television, mobile communication, cellular and satellite networks; operating chat rooms; publication of electronic books and journals from local or global communications networks, including the internet, intranets, extranets, television, mobile communication, cellular and satellite networks; providing on-line electronic publications; electronic games services provided from local or global communications networks, including the internet, intranets, extranets, television, mobile communication, cellular and satellite networks; information relating to music entertainment, education, interactive entertainment and education, provided on-line from local or global communications networks, including the internet, intranets, extranets, television, mobile communication, cellular and satellite networks; music library services;.
Sifting through all the gobbledegook it is clear that this is the first sign that Apple will be looking to launch a music-centric handset.
However, the latest news comes from research firm American Technology Research who have announced that an iPod/phone prototype is on the verge of becoming a production unit. Apparently the handset will be in a candy-bar form factor and closely resemble the iPod nano. It is thought it will be available in three colours; black, white and platinum.
Shaw Wu an analyst at ATR said "We believe this smart phone has been in development for over 12 months and has overcome substantial challenges including design, interference, battery life and other technical glitches."
"Clearly, we would like to share more detail as we have conducted extensive work on the product pipeline."
Wu's report agrees with recent rumours, this time from a source "with direct connections to [Apple's] plans".
The phone currently boasts a three megapixel camera, 2.2in display, "complete" iTunes integration and a full iPod-like feature set. Song capacity will only be limited to available storage capacity (as yet unknown), a better proposition than the 100-song limit imposed on users of the disappointing ROKR.
From all sources it would appear that Apple will be showcasing an iPhone in some form at the MacWorld Expo in San Fransisco, January 2007.
To further confirm the existance of this supposed iPhone, Mobile Business's spys managed to get the following image of the prototype.