Update: 4/19: Gizmodo got the good and has spent some time with this found device. They are now convinced that it’s real. And so am I. Check the bottom of the article for more details.

Something very odd happened over the weekend. The next iPhone was spotted. Then it was debunked. Then it was confirmed. And now, we’re all confused.

Let’s get caught up. Fasten your seat belts, this is a wild one.

iphone4main1-1271619603On Saturday, Engadget posted some photos of what was reported to be a prototype iPhone. The phone was supposedly found on the floor of a San Jose bar, in an iPhone 3G case. The person that found it sent some blurry (why are they always blurry?) photos of it to Engadget hoping to get a little more money out of them for an in person inspection of the device. How they thought that they would be able to get together with Engadget before Apple’s army of lawyers found them, I don’t know.

Taking a look at the photos, they look about right. All of the buttons are in the right place, check. Home button looks exactly the same. On the bottom, the speaker and microphone look the same. And it looks like a typical Apple dock connector on the bottom.

The phone had, at one time, powered on and worked. It reportedly ran an OS that was decidedly different from the iPhone OS. But now, supposedly the phone no longer powered on. Odd.

After looking at them, most considered these photos (like the one to the right), a fake. A very good fake, probably a Chinese made knock-off, but a fake.

Read on for even more on this — is it the next iPhone?

Shortly after, the following image showed up showing a mystery phone that looks just like the one Engadget was sent photos of.

iphoneg4m

This shows more detail like the micro-SIM slot in the side of the phone, a possibly removable battery, and more. The removable battery itself convinced a whole new group of people that the images were fake.

Oddly, neither set of photos showed the top of the back of the phone — like where the camera and possible flash would be.

But here we are, Sunday morning and just about everyone has chimed in that these photos are a knock-off phone. And then Engadget remembers their iPad spy photos and Gruber makes some calls.

Back to Engadget — remember they leaked photos of the iPad the night before the announcement in January. Well if you take a look at that photo to the right, you see an iPhone front in the bottom left. You also see, with the big red arrow on the top right, a small part of a device that looks EXACTLY like this new iPhone. The plot thickens!

iphone-on-tablet-800

John Gruber is a pretty well connected blogger. He made a few calls to connections at Apple and now believes this is the real deal. He said:

I think it is the real deal in terms of the internals and display being next-gen iPhone hardware, and the new glass back. Put another way: the front looks legit, the back looks legit, but the sides I’m not sure about. A front-facing camera and 960 × 640 display are two things I believe are slated for the next iPhone.

Well John Gruber is a pretty skeptical person. And if he believes, maybe we are on to something. But, I just don’t know.

So let’s wrap up what we do know about this supposed next iPhone.

80 GB of storage — odd number, but let’s go with it for a bit.

Glass / Ceramic back — very odd, but very interesting choice and very inventive. Only Apple would do something this radical. The glass back is antenna transparent — meaning that it’s as good as the plastic back for getting the radio signals in and out. It also points to the patent we saw a few months ago about gesture controls on the back of a phone. Think Magic Mouse swipe gestures on the back of your phone.

Increased screen resolution 960×480 (unconfirmed) – this phone supposedly has an increased screen resolution — but since we haven’t seen any pictures of the thing turned on, it’s hard to know for sure.

Front-facing camera – Yes, please! Mobile video conferencing would rock!

Better camera with flash — also, we haven’t seen any pictures created with the camera or even of the camera, so it’s hard to know.

Removable Battery — this might be just in the prototype. Apple has been moving to non-removeable batteries in every device, not sure why they would move back. Well, unless this thing has really bad battery life that is.

Micro SIM Card — The iPad 3G version ships with a micro SIM card, so this makes sense.

Here we are, all wrapped up and still we don’t know if this thing is real or not. If might e the near final phone, it might be as Gruber says, a test bed phone, and it might be an all out fake. But we do know that if it is indeed from Apple, there will be a few Apple employees looking for new jobs. I can’t imagine that this device was supposed to leave campus.

Update 4/19: Gizmodo got some hands on time with this mystery device and has all of the details.

Picture 3

We know that the camera on the back does indeed have a flash. There is no removable battery — no big surprise there. The screen is a higher resolution — but details aren’t known because they haven’t activated the phone. There’s a hole on the top of the device that is likely a second microphone — used for noise cancelation. The battery is 15% larger. And the big one — there’s a front facing camera.

So, I think this is the real deal. This is the next iPhone. While it’s still a few months away and we could see slight changes, this is indeed the A+ upgrade that Steve Jobs promised. Did Gizmodo just ruin Christmas?

What do you guys think? Is this the next iPhone? If so, what do you like about it — what do you hate about it? Let us know in the comments.

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