I dislike iPhone speculation stories as much as anyone, but given the frenzy of activity surrounding this particular piece of news - and suitable time spent to check if it was a hoax - coverage is unavoidable...
Popular US blog Gizmodo claims it is in possession of the fourth generation iPhone, or at least a late prototype. The model was found in a bar in Redwood City (stick with me here) and after full investigation by the team is indeed said to be the real deal.
Proof? Obviously we have none, but according to Gizmodo it has opened the handset up, discovered Apple branded components and connected the handset to a computer where iTunes identifies it as an iPhone. Sadly the bloggers can't get past the activation screen since Apple allegedly remote wiped the handset before it got into their hands. Doh, someone should've known to put it into Airplane mode.
So if we are going to go with the theory this handset is genuine what do we learn? For a start the model's outside appearance is quite heavily reworked from the iPhone 3G/3GS with a more MacBook Pro-esque aluminium boarder around the outside, separate metallic volume up and down buttons and a move to a side positioned micro SIM (the same format as used by the iPad 3G).
On top of this, or should I say 'behind this', the rear is once again completely flat as it was with the first generation iPhone. This fits with the more angular approach in general, but I hope it is more practical and assured in hand than the original bar of soap iPhone. Tech wise we also get the first hints of change externally with a front facing camera while a Flash and larger lens (five megapixels seems the safe bet) comprise the rear camera.
Where we could be in for a disappointment, however, is the screen. Despite Gizmodo reporting the resolution to be much sharper there was no mention of OLED backlighting and it is supposedly slightly smaller than the 3.5 incher Apple has used up until now. Both these decisions would seem like madness given the switch to OLED and 3.7in by most high end Android rivals. It also weighs 140g, which is five grams heavier than the 3GS.
On the plus side the model is 116.8 x 58.6 x 0.93mm making it slightly longer (115.5mm), narrower (62.1mm) and quite a lot thinner (12.3mm) than the 3GS. The battery is 16 per cent larger too being 5.25 WHr at 3.7V compared to 4.51 WHr at 3.7V. Storage at this stage is unknown, but a move to 64GB should be nailed on.
How is it to use? With the handset locked down by Apple sadly Gizmodo is unable to say.
Initial thoughts? IF this model proves genuine - or at least a prototype close enough to whatever will be unveiled in June - then I have to admit I'm a little disappointed. This runs contrary to most of the fanfare which has greeted the report around the web, but I expected more and this feels like yet another redesign rather than a radical overhaul.
Personally speaking a screen any smaller than the 3.5 inches seen in every iPhone to date and lacking OLED would be a deal breaker for me. The same wasted space around that chunky bezel remains as well and while the flat design is quite nice it doesn't look ergonically friendly at all. Apple will need to unveil some seriously impressive processing power (likely the same Apple A4 chip as in the iPad) and battery life to stop me switching to Android after three generations of iPhone ownership.
I'm distinctly underwhelmed.
Update: Curious about the story behind how Apple lost its next generation iPhone? Gizmodo has posted details.
Update 2: As eagle-eyed reader savant points out, Apple has now confirmed the lost handset is real by formally requesting it back.