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Apple’s internal inventory suggests new iPhone 4, iPod Touch

by Phil Hornshaw

Rumor has it that a look into Apple’s internal inventory system might have revealed at least a couple of the company’s coming announcements before its Oct. 4 iPhone event.

According to a report from 9to5Mac, new model numbers have appeared in Apple’s internal inventory system that suggest some new variations on the iPhone 4 and the iPod Touch. Both new model numbers carry the letter “A,” suggesting they’re minor variations and are likely devices we’ve already seen before.

The first are three new models carrying the codename N81A; N81 is Apple’s identifier for its latest generation of iPod Touch devices, and the A suggests that these are the same devices with a smallish change. Over at 9to5Mac, the speculation here is that Apple is releasing three white models to go with the three black models of iPod Touch that are already available: the 8GB, 32GB and 64GB iPods. That makes pretty good sense, given that 9to5Mac previously published plans that seemed to confirm a batch of white iPod Touches as being in the works.

The second set of models is much more interesting. These are two SKU numbers carrying the codename N90A, which suggests two variations on the N90 – the code that refers to the iPhone 4 that’s currently available to the public. The “A” in this case suggests two new variations on the iPhone 4 we know and love, quite possibly an 8GB model that will come in both black and white.

Rumors have been flying around for a while now that Apple intends to release two new iPhone models during its Oct. 4 event: the full-on upgrade known as the iPhone 5, with new internal hardware and a redesigned case, and a cheaper variation on the iPhone 4.

This N90A iPhone could very likely be the cheaper iPhone 4 we heard about, with a scaled-back hard drive to keep its cost down. There’s been some talk that this could be a carrier-free phone that users could pay for in full up front, allowing them to avoid the cost of getting on a two-year contract with carriers such as AT&T or Verizon.

So it seems likely that if these codename numbers are to be believed, we really will see a couple of new iPhones next week. It’s unlikely that the N90A refers to the next iPhone model, although many rumors have been up and down that Apple won’t be releasing a full-on iPhone 5, but rather an incremental update known as the iPhone 4S. Still, if that were the case, the iPhone 4S would carry its own new model number, likely N94, which has popped up in the software development kit code for the next update to Apple’s operating system, iOS 5. The Verizon iPhone 4 got its own codename, N92, when it was released earlier this year, so it seems unlikely that the iPhone 4S wouldn’t get a new number as well.

Perhaps we can tick the “cheaper iPhone 4” rumor off as being true at this point, then. That just leaves the ins and outs of the iPhone 5. We think we know what to expect. Then again, Apple has a way of being surprising.