Okay, Apple, You Win! Why Journos Don’t Know Jack About What iPhone Will Be Announced Next Week

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What kind of iPhone will Apple announce next week? Beats us: Apple's gone to unprecedented and incredible lengths to keep the next iPhone secret.
What kind of iPhone will Apple announce next week? Beats us: Apple's gone to unprecedented and incredible lengths to keep the next iPhone secret.

AllThingsD says that Apple will announced the next iPhone on October 4th, next Thursday, at a small venue at its own Cupertino HQ. Since All Things D’s “source” is almost definitely Apple itself, that date and venue seems pretty solid.

It’s about the only report about the next iPhone that feels solid. What else do we know for sure about the next iPhone? Pretty much bupkis for sure. Apple has gone to unprecedented and incredible lengths to keep the exact details of the next iPhone secret. It’s the first time Apple journalists have truly felt left in the dark for a long time.

This is just one possibility of what the next iPhone could look like

Will the next iPhone be a significant update, or just a speed bump? We’ve heard about the iPhone 5, a faster iPhone with a thinner, tapered design, but even there, no one can agree if the iPhone 5 will have a bigger display or not, a capacitive home button or not, if it will be released this year or in 2012.

We’ve also heard about the iPhone 4S, an upgraded version of the iPhone 4 with Apple’s faster A5 processor, but that’s all anyone can say for sure: no one seems sure if the iPhone 4S will be a world phone capable of running on GSM and CDMA networks at the same time, if it will be Apple’s new premier smartphone or if it will be aimed at budget and prepaid markets, or what.

We don’t know which iPhone Apple will unveil next week. It could be the iPhone 4S. It could be the iPhone 5. Heck, it even could be both.

Ask most people who cover Apple for a living what Cupertino’s got up its sleeves for next week, and most of them will scratch their heads. “Beats me.”

Call it Steve Jobs’ revenge. For the first time in recent memory, no one outside of Apple really knows what to expect when Tim Cook takes the stage next week.

Almost every major new Apple product of the last couple years has leaked ahead of time, but not the 2011 iPhone.

Apple’s secrecy about its upcoming products is notorious, of course, but even so, the last few years have seen a bumper crop of leaks and credible, sourced rumors hit the Internet weeks and even months before Apple has unveiled its latest and greatest.

The iPhone 4, of course, was obtained by Gizmodo a good two months before Apple officially announced it. The iPad? Engadget got pictures of it weeks before Steve Jobs first showed off his baby tablet. The new iPod nano? Leaked in July ahead of a September debut. The new MacBook Air? Again, leaked weeks ahead of time.

These are just the biggest examples. For the past couple of years, Apple journos have had a headstart of at least a week or two on every major and minor Apple product unveiling. In some cases, like the iPhone 4 or the MacBook Air, we’ve known just about everything there is to know about the gadget before Steve Jobs has announced it. In other cases, like the iPad, we’ve been able to piece together a complete look at the device based upon a few hasty cam shots and the consensus of rumor.

Now let’s consider the next iPhone. It’s been 16 months since Apple debuted the iPhone 4, but in all that time, we haven’t seen one credible picture of the device itself leak. This despite the fact that Apple incredibly lost one in a San Francisco tequila joint, the second time something like this has happened in two years. But while the first iPhone Apple lost in a bar was plastered all over gadget blogs less than a week later, Apple has managed to keep the details surrounding the return of the iPhone 4S/iPhone 5 prototype so secret that even the San Francisco Police — who actually assisted with the case — have had to launch an internal investigation to figure out what their role in the case actually was, and why there’s no documentation about how they helped Apple on file.

Amazing. But even more amazing is how Apple has closed up the leaks in its supply chain.

Rewind a year and a half ago and you’ll discover that Apple had a leak the size of an entire country in its iron curtain of product secrecy. For months, Apple sites were getting complete looks at Apple’s new products weeks and months before they were officially unveiled thanks to explosive product leaks in Vietnam. But since last year, Apple has apparently welded all the cracks shut: despite the fact that tens of thousands of Foxconn assembly workers have been building the next iPhone for the last couple months, we’ve yet to get a credible look at the device itself. Not a single blurry cam pic.