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Rumor mill coughs up $99 4GB iPhone

When scuttlebutt collides

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With less than a week to go before Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, at which new iPhone - or iPhones - is/are widely expected to be announced, the rumor mill is heating up. And the latest buzz is about a $99 4GB model.

But first the traditional caveat: Buzz is merely buzz, rumors are merely rumors, and Apple isn't talking. Take today's scuttlebutt with the proverbial grain of proverbial salt.

That said, three different nuggets of evidence - or, to be more cautious, "evidence" - combine to raise this possibility a wee bit higher up the scale of plausibility.

Rumor #1: From Engadget comes word from the ever-popular "trusted source" that the PCS Type Review Certification Board (PCTRB) - the industry group that certifies GSM handsets - has approved iPhones of 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB capacities. Those last three capacities are no surprise, but 4GB? Which leads us to...

Rumor #2: Over at The Boy Genius, you can find a series of bootlegged presentation slides that purport to detail the 2009 product roadmap for Fido Solutions, a subsidiary of the Canadian telecom provider Rogers Communications. Among the slides is one that includes an image of a familiar-looking 3G iPhone that's labeled as "Apple iPhone (4GB)" with a listed price of $99 for a three-year contract.

Note that TBG himself cautions that he's "very far away from being able to confirm this information." Among the features listed on the slide, however, are "Video Calling (iChat)" and a "2.0MP Camera." Now, a 2.0MP camera is less capable than the 3.2MP camera that's been widely reported, but...

Rumor #3: Yesterday we reported on an article published by the China Economic News Service (CENS), which confidently stated that an iPhone would be released in China this July and which detailed a number of Taiwanese parts suppliers that stood to benefit from contracts with Apple.

Among the companies listed is Largan Precision, which CENS described as "a large-sized camera lens maker on the island." When we checked on Largan's offerings yesterday, we discovered that the cellphone lenses they make are limited to use with 1.3MP and 2.0MP sensors.

We thought nothing of it at the time, since Apple has been known to enter into agreements with suppliers for off-catalog parts - Intel, for example. But with today's TBG rumor of a 4GB $99 iPhone with a 2.0MP camera, alarm bells went off.

So there you have it - you now know as much as we know. And as much as anyone outside of a surprisingly tight circle of Apple insiders knows.

But as Master Po might have said to Caine in Kung Fu, "Patience, young grasshopper. All will be revealed in good time." ®

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