Media event set for September 9, launch likely ~10 days later.
Lost Foxconn iPhone May Have Been Source of Teardrop iPhone 5 Case Designs
Mockup of tapered iPhone 5 based on leaked case designs
While the sourcing on the report is certainly questionable, the detailed account is an interesting read and it would not be the first time that a mobile phone accessory vendor has been involved in leaked iPhone prototypes.
The missing prototype is said to have been enclosed in a case to disguise it as a current-generation iPhone 4–which brings to mind the iPhone 4 prototype acquired by Gizmodo that was camouflaged as an iPhone 3GS. How Apple achieved that with the iPhone 5 supposedly wider and longer than the current iPhone 4 is a point to ponder.The report goes on to note that an outside party had paid a Foxconn employee to deliver the prototype device, which was reportedly then sold to a case manufacturer for approximately $3,100.
It is said to be a test model with a finalized iPhone 5 chassis featuring the tear-drop design. However, the interesting thing about it is that it apparently houses what we assume to be slightly modified iPhone 4 electronics with components such as the A4 chip and even the same amount of memory.
It is unclear when the alleged loss of the prototype occurred, although reports of the tapered design extend back to least April and a design document showing the form factor appeared by late July. Since that time, numerous case manufacturers have released cases for the new form factor, but actual evidence of the device in the form of parts leaks has yet to surface.
Not all Apple prototypes make it into production, with the 2009 iPod touch with camera being a notable example of a design that made it quite far through the prototyping process before Apple decided to remove the camera. There has been considerable debate about whether Apple will be launching this redesigned teardrop form factor for the iPhone, as evidence from leaked parts has so far only shown an "iPhone 4S" design based on the iPhone 4.
Daring Fireball's John Gruber hints in his link to news of the media event invitations that there may in fact be only one new device introduced next week, which would presumably be the more conservative iPhone 4S design.
Something tells me there’s only one new iPhone.The comment is far from confirmation, but Gruber has in the past offered accurate information on Apple's plans and has on occasion coyly hinted at such knowledge in his comments.