One of the hottest online rumors in the days leading up to January's Macworld Conference & Expo contends that Apple is planning to release an iPhone nano.
According to MacRumors.com, which has been a central focal point for the rumors, there are some items of possible evidence -- as well as some doubts.
Rumors from China
On the "possible evidence" side, MacRumors.com showed a screenshot from the Web site of an iPhone case manufacturer, XSKN. The screenshot shows a "Browse by Category" menu of phone model choices, which, under iPhone, includes "iPhone nano" as well as iPhone 3G and "iPhone 1st Gen."
The credibility for this evidence, MacRumors noted, is that XSKN began selling cases earlier this year for the iPhone 3G, before it was released. In September, it showed case images of unreleased fourth-generation iPod nano designs, prior to that model's release.
Although XSKN has not published images specifically identified as the iPhone nano, a company called iDealsChina has. Commentary on iDealsChina's site noted that China is the place these rumors often start because the "thousands of people involved in building iPhone components" means information will get out. This information, the commentary noted, can mean "millions of dollars, if you get it right and you get it early," for "accessory manufacturers and agents in China" who will then decide whether and when to produce accompanying items.
In a posting dated December 15, iDealsChina contended that a variety of companies are currently producing cases for the new iPhone nano. It quoted other sites as suggesting that the new iPhone would have a control dial with a pull-out keypad, but no 3G. iDealsChina also contended that the iPhone nano will be targeted at those who are looking for a lower price point, will be sold in such stores as Walmart, and will be launched at the Macworld show in January.
Doubts on Photo, Form Factor
On the "dubious evidence" side, MacRumors also published a photo that looks like a product shot, with a regular-sized iPhone next to a version that is about 25 percent smaller. The site noted that it has doubts about the photo because of its source -- it was submitted anonymously -- and because of "the practicality of introducing a new form factor to the iPhone/iPod touch platform."
Whether the rumors are true or not, some refreshing of the iPhone line is expected. The device, which had a brief period of being unlike anything else on the market, is now facing a variety of competitors, especially outside the United States.
A new report from industry research firm ChangeWave, for instance, showed that, while the iPhone is more than holding its own against Research In Motion's recently released BlackBerry Storm, widely considered to be an iPhone challenger, there were clouds on the horizon.
One example: The report showed that 39 percent of the respondents to its survey planned to buy a BlackBerry in the next three months, an increase of nine percent from September. Thirty percent intended to buy an iPhone, which was down four percent from September.