Assembled new iPhone components and pretty new iPhone renders are helpful, but they can only get you so far. After all, they've been wrong before. But now we've finally got hard evidence that Apple's next handset is going to be an entirely different animal, along with a strong suggestion that the iPad Mini is no myth.
And the best part? It all comes straight from Apple.
What you're looking at above is a chart that AllThingsD dug up based on Apple's latest 10-Q. It shows what percentage of Apple's total sales the company devoted to locking in long-term components contracts. As you can see, that number started picking up nine months ago, and exploded this spring. Right around the time the first iPhone 5 rumors bubbled up.
In this most recent June quarter, Apple spent 12.6 percent of sales on inventory component prepayment, which represented a whopping $1.15 billion real increase over the previous quarter. Basically, one in ten dollars the company took in was spent securing all the bits and blops that make up its devices. The last time Apple made a move any where near that significant was in early 2011, when it was gobbling up (very pricey) retina displays for the iPhone 4S, iPad and, eventually, MacBook Pro. That was a huge spending spree. This latest one dwarfs it.
So why does that matter? Because if the new iPhone were iterative, Apple would have all of those components deals already in place. You don't spend an extra $1.18 billion on a slightly better camera sensor; you drop that kind of change when you're starting from whole cloth.
And even then, that's a lot of money. Enough that it's safer than ever to assume that the iPhone's not the only product Apple has waiting in the wings this fall. Enough to look at those iPad Mini rumors and think that it might be the kind of device that would make Apple spend twice as much of its hard-earned revenue as it did a year before on. Enough to even (gasp!) start giving an Apple HDTV some serious consideration.
We may not know for sure what the next iPhone will look like, or if there will in fact be an iPad Mini this fall. But we do know now, for absolute certain, that Apple's been giving money away like Brewster these last few months. And you don't do that unless you plan on making a very, very big impression. [AllThingsD]