China Ontrade calls this the iPhone 4 Generation Midboard. Not very exciting, but the last time they announced a next-generation iPhone part, they were right. A month later, the iPhone 3GS appeared with exactly those parts. What could this mean?
Let's review what we know: When we first covered China Ontrade's iPhone 3G 2009 parts—back in May 2009—we thought they looked real. Since they didn't have any track record, we treated it as a rumor. Potentially true, but a rumor. The iPhone 3GS announcement was going to happen that summer, so it was logical that factories had already manufactured parts for the assembled iPhone 2009. That is, in fact, what China Ontrade claimed in their site:
This is great honor for China Ontrade (HK) chinaontrade.com to be the 1st started to supply iphone 3gen 2009 parts directly from factory
In June 2009, the actual iPhone 3GS teardown confirmed that China Ontrade's parts were indeed the real McCoy. Somehow, the Chinese wholesaler's ninjas—who sell spare parts for all Apple iPod and iPhone products—got the next generation pieces one month before the product reached the streets.
Zoom in to see the comparison of the May 2009 and June 2009 parts.
Now, China Ontrade is claiming that this iPhone midboard belongs to the next-generation iPhone 4, which in theory is supposed to come out next summer, like all the previous iPhones. If confirmed, this means they have the piece about eight months before the actual iPhone 2010 release. That seems like an awfully long time for any factory to produce parts for a new product. Like every company out there, Apple's products are built just-in-time to avoid stock congestion or last minute changes. They don't have parts ready eight months before release.
Does this mean that a new iPhone 4 may appear in a month too? That seems crazy, and very unlikely. After all, we know that Phil Schiller said that the Apple holiday lineup was set. Some people argue that this means that the holiday lineup is set, but it hasn't been fully announced yet. However, for now we can only speculate about the true meaning of his words, and the fact that Apple called us to tell us an exact quote to publish.
Some may argue that they have important reasons to accelerate the introduction of a new iPhone. One is gaining more strength lately, despite Apple's domination of the cell market: Google's Android. Even while Apple COO Tim Cook dismissed Android—saying that Google phones "are still just trying to catch up with the first iPhone two years ago"—the media mindshare is certainly shifting. Thanks to the latest batch of Android 2.0 cellphones, people are starting to look at Android with different eyes.
For now we can't assume any of this means a new iPhone is around the corner. After all, the 3GS just came out five months ago. The only thing we know is that China Ontrade's claims were true in the past, so it's logical to assume this is an actual iPhone 4 generation part. But this makes little sense given Apple's manufacturing practices and self-imposed yearly-upgrade cycle, so this may all be a publicity ploy. Especially because they claim they will publish actual shots of the product in their web site.