With Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference 2009 just a week away, evidence continues to mount that the event will yield official confirmation of a new and improved iPhone. In the week since leaked specs and operator supply shortages strongly hinted at the smartphone's imminent release, photos surfaced via Hong Kong-based vendor Ontrade, which released pictures purportedly depicting an LCD screen and bezel frame optimized for what the site calls the "iPhone 3Gen 2009." Days later, MacRumors published a photo comparing the back of the current iPhone 3G model with a black-matte edition consistent with earlier images depicting an iPhone with the mysterious model number A1303. Over the weekend, the MacRumors forum offered still more photos--these screengrabs, originally posted on Chinese website UMPC Fever, show off a series of features unavailable on the current iPhone, including a compass, multimedia messaging, horizontal typing, built-in video and voice recording, and camera autofocus. And to top it all off, Apple Insider reports electronics retailer Best Buy issued a memo warning staffers of dwindling iPhone supplies, adding that some stores may not have iPhones to sell for a few weeks later this month.
Now leaks are even coming from within Apple's ranks. A week after a Salon blogger posted screenshots purportedly promoting new iPhone video download services, Apple Insider reports AppleCare customer support agents are now receiving training materials including information documenting how the iPhone 3.0 software upgrade will enable users to directly download premium iTunes movies and television shows to their smartphones. "Apple never puts out product training this far ahead of a product launch," a source familiar with the computing giant's training efforts said, indicating the AppleCare materials arrived last Tuesday, roughly six weeks before the new iPhone's anticipated mid-July retail release. What isn't known is whether Apple will enable video downloads over 3G networks or restrict the service to WiFi: In May, placeshifting technology developer Sling Media finally issued the long-awaited iPhone edition of its SlingPlayer Mobile video application, but the release version of the app does not include 3G support--although AT&T took the fall for the controversy that inevitably followed, contending 3G streaming would consume too much network capacity, Sling later noted the service is WiFi-only at Apple's request.
With the addition of the new iTunes downloading capabilities, it appears Apple will also revise its download policies, no longer allowing users to re-download apps they previously downloaded, presumably in an effort to limit piracy. At present, users seeking to add premium video to the existing iPhone 3G model must first purchase the content via desktop iTunes software and then sync with their smartphone, but PC World reports that according to a beta tester of the iPhone 3.0 software, consumers must now submit only their iTunes username and password to begin downloading a film or TV program. By restricting the ability to re-download iPhone apps, Apple would effectively prevent users from sharing their iTunes account information with others who could then download for free all the applications and content the iTunes account owner had previously purchased--PC World adds that the 3.0 firmware update will allow iPhone users to log in and out of multiple iTunes accounts right from the device.
Of course, who needs pirated Hollywood content when Cupertino generates this kind of mystery and drama? The hell with movies and TV--the unfolding iPhone soap opera is by far the most compelling storyline of the summer. Don't touch that dial. -Jason