MacRumors has discovered that a file in Apple's iPhone 2.x firmware (USBDeviceConfiguration.plist) contains evidence of the next generation iPhone which has been designated "iPhone2,1".
Apple uses these models numbers to distinguish between different hardware models. The original iPhone carries the model number of "iPhone 1,1" while the 3G iPhone is labeled "iPhone 1,2". These numbers do not change for simple storage increases and instead represent functionally different devices. Similarly, the iPod Touch was originally introduced as the "iPod 1,1" and the most recent hardware revision was labeled "iPod2,1". The 2,1 iPod Touch added a speaker, volume controls, microphone support and a much faster processor than the 1st generation model.
MacRumors also notes that some Web server have captured the "iPhone2,1" user-agent in their logs. So, someone is either testing the handset or spoofing it.
It's pretty obvious to me that "iPhone2,1" is the next-gen Apple iPhone hardware and it's most likely the elusive quad-core beast that I got wind of at Macworld Expo in San Francisco. The word on the new iPhone is that it will slaughter the PSP in terms of gaming benchmarks (fps, polygons and what have you) and that Sony is scrambling to release the PSP2 before Apple brings it to market.
The third generation iPhone hardware is also rumored to ship with a brand-spanking-new firmware, labeled 3.0, which will be the cat's meow and will (supposedly) answer all the critics. Whether the new handset and firmware address the iPhone's now cliché missing features (repeat after me: copy & paste, MMS, video recording, A2DP, iChat, camera improvements) remains to be seem, but Apple reads blogs and is all-too-keenly aware of the advancements being made by Google, RIM and yes, even Palm.
I could see Apple holding a lot of the iPhones "missing features" for firmware 3 in order to make a huge splash and then bask in the wave of new sales and good PR. The latest that I hear is that we could see the next-gen iPhone at WWDC 2009 in June.
Update: PinchMedia has posted some additional details on the usage of the "2,1" device.
- 1st spotting of the "iPhone 2,1" device occured in early October 2008 - Usage picked up in mid-December 2008 - A few dozen distinct "iPhone 2,1" devices have been detected - Almost exclusively located in south San Francisco Bay Area - Both AT&T and Wi-Fi connections