Another iPhone Surfaces, This Time In Vietnam

At this point, Apple won't have many surprises left if the expected next-generation iPhone is indeed on tap for introduction at next month's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), because another next-generation iPhone prototype has just shown up on the Internet.

This time, the phone has turned up in Vietnam. Photos and a video first surfaced on Web site Taoviet.vn, which is now offline, no doubt due to millions of curious iPhone fans pounding on Vietnam's small but fast-growing Internet connection to the rest of the world.

A second site has the photos, as well as a description. Taoviet also disassembled the phone, which appears to be operational in the video showing off the mobile device. The big news for Apple fans, some of whom have complained about how slow the iPhone runs compared to Android phones, is this phone has the A4, the same speedy and power-efficient processor found in the iPad.

The phone looks very much like the prototype found by Gizmodo last month, but there are some notable improvements, too. It's sealed, with no screws around the body, and the back says "16GB". The Gizmodo prototype said only "XXGB" on the back. When it was plugged into a PC, iTunes recognized it as an iPhone but didn't recognize what model -- similar to the Gizmodo model -- but it did detect the Broadcom USB chip inside, common to iPhones.

The new, alleged iPhone prototype is thinner than the current-generation iPhone by a few millimeters, according to the site that examined it, and a few millimeters narrower, but slightly longer. Screen size is roughly the same, but the resolution is doubled. The sides of the phone are all aluminum and the back is flat, which should remedy the problems with cracks that appeared in the rounded iPhone 3G/3GS plastic bodies.

Taoviet did not disclose how it obtained the device. A posting on the Vietnamese message board hosting the iPhone photos claims that the phone is available for US$4,000. It also said the phone has two cameras, one facing the user and one on the backside, which could mean video conference calling. The description indicates that the device also includes a flash for the front-facing camera, and that the back is made of scratch-resistant material.

Apple did not return requests for comment.

While Gizmodo's look at an Apple prototype came about due to a lost phone being found relatively close to Apple headquarters, this leak in Asia is no surprise to Jack Gold, president of J.Gold Associates.

"The supply chain in our world today is pretty convoluted, so Apple could be having it made by Company A, who farms out part of it to Company B, who farms out part of it to Company C," he told InternetNews.com. "Vietnam has a pretty substantial electronics assembly business these days. So I wouldn't be at all surprised."

Despite the fact that prototypes of the first three iPhones never leaked, the newest leak -- if legitimate -- also doesn't seem unexpected given how much electronics assembly takes place in companies with thousands of workers, many of whom don't make a lot of money.

"It's incredibly difficult for any company to prevent leaks," Gold said, adding that the previous iPhone models "weren't as popular then as they are now. There wasn't as much pressure on leaks as now."

There were a few leaked details of the iPhone 3GS, but that was all that made it into the media. To Gold, the change is telling.

"What is interesting here is [Apple] can't control physical units. That indicates to me that Apple has probably lost control of their supply chain," he said.

Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


iPhone, iPad, Apple, leak, prototype