Rumour: Apple has three iPhone 5 prototypes

A Taiwanese web site which is garnering a growing reputation for accurate Apple scoops is reporting that Apple has three potential candidates for the next generation of the iPhone.

tw.apple.pro says the inventor of fruit-themed gadgetry has a trio of prototypes in testing (according to Google's shonky translation) which could easily be dismissed as just another round of Chinese whispers based on Apple's legendary ability to perpetuate its own mythology without saying a word.

What we do know for sure is that the web site in question has an undeniably good track record when it comes to laying its hands on components from Apple's as-yet-unlaunched products, including the touch panel from the recent iPod Nano and various bits of the last MacBook refresh long before Apple unveiled them.

Even so, we recommend that you take at least two of the site's predictions for the next generation of the Holy Handset with a fistful of salt, as we reckon they are about as likely as Steve Jobs admitting to using a Windows Phone.

The first, and least likely in our book, is that the iPhone 5 will have some kind of slide-out keyboard. Steve jobs and the rest of his Apple cohorts have been such stern advocates of the iPhone's on-screen input method that we really can't see this happening any time soon. In fact, Apple was so determined that the touch-screen keyboard was all anyone needed that the outfit has only recently unleashed the APIs which allow bluetooth keyboard connectivity on the smaller two of the three iDevices.

We've now heard so many rumours about an iPhone Mini, or Nano, that we're actually almost starting to believe them ourselves now... but not quite. The only reason Apple could possibly have for shrinking the physical dimensions of the iPhone 4 would be to reduce the price. The Retina Display is one of the most costly components in the iPhone so it would make sense if Apple wanted to get into a price war with bargain bucket offers from cheap Chinese outfits flogging Android-based smarties, smaller would be the way to go.

But Apple quite simply doesn't do cheap. Why would it dilute its already staggering sales of iPhone 4s by cannibalizing its own market? If Apple wanted to compete with its competitors on price alone, which we can assure you it doesn't, it could easily drop the quality of the Retina Display and cut the flash RAM down to a bare minimum - instead utilising cloud based storage for memory-munching media - and keep the same basic footprint.

At a time when everyone is jealously eyeing the tablet market, and mobile phone screens are definitely heading in a 'bigger is better' direction, a miniature iPhone makes no sense at all.

Unfortunately for us, and gadget fans everywhere, the third rumoured prototype is the least exciting but also the most plausible.

If you think about the jump between the iPhone 3G and the 3Gs you pretty much have the picture. Better cameras, faster processor and longer battery life... and that's about it.

Maybe the iPhone 5 we have all been waiting for was a bit too ambitious.

iPhone 4.5 anyone?