By now, we’re no stranger to rumors of a new iPod touch model complete with a built-in camera and microphone. Even without sources backing up these claims, it just seems like the logical next step for Apple (s aapl) to take with the device if it wants to keep providing consumers with an incentive to upgrade. The latest word is not only that these rumors are accurate, but that the device in question is already on the assembly line in China.
The source, a “well-connected” one talking to Wired.com, claims that circulating rumors about the camera and microphone are both spot on. They even confirm that the camera included in the new iPod touch (which was last updated at the beginning of September in 2008, making this the longest interval between model changes) will indeed be able to capture both images and video. And it will include an external mic, in addition to the external speaker and headset support included in the current iteration.
As Wired points out, this will make it an ideal device for use with existing Skype applications already available in the App Store. The combination of the two could make the iPod touch a viable home phone replacement for those who already only use their landlines for long distance anyways. They also note that combined with a Verizon MiFi, it basically becomes an iPhone without the cruddy AT&T (s att) network and attendant charges.
I’d long suspected that Apple was holding off on including these phone-like features in the iPod touch to differentiate between it and the iPhone in order to avoid cannibalizing sales, but my own experience has been that touch owners are much more inclined toward an iPhone purchase than not. I think Apple has realized this “gateway drug” phenomenon has little to do with hardware features and a lot to do with a constant data connection and cell phone features.
Which leads me to believe that they only reason they’re pacing the release of the rest of the iPhone’s extra bells and whistles to their portable media player platform is for differentiation between models, not across product lines. That means there’s hope for GPS integration in future versions, which I think we’ll see if turn-by-turn apps on the iPhone become a significant success. Also don’t forget that the iPod touch was actually the first to get built-in Nike+ support, so expect to see at least one surprise when this device does launch, which should be in two to three months, if Wired’s source is accurate.