Mystery iPhone Rides BART

A chain of evidence shows what may be an as-yet-unreleased iPhone being used outside Apple’s (s aapl) industrial design lab, MacRumors is reporting, but in this case unreleased may not mean new.

Source: Ars Technica

Whoever has this device in his or her possession apparently rides BART, the light-rail system serving San Francisco and the Bay Area. That’s known because he or she also uses iBART, a transit information app for the iPhone, and by using iBART an internal device identifier was recorded. The identifier “iPhone3,1” was reported to Pinch Media, an analytics firm used by developers, and that’s how it ultimately became public. The thing is, this isn’t the first time that’s happened.

In August, another developer revealed evidence of an “iProd0,1” in the then-iPhone OS 3.1 beta to Ars Technica. That product has been speculated to be the rumored tablet, but as the preference list above shows, there is an “iPhone3,1” device listed, too. For reference, “iPhone1,1” was the original iPhone, “iPhone1,2” the iPhone 3G, and “iPhone2,1” turned out to be the iPhone 3GS released in June. However, that internal device identifier was first reported in January by none other than Pinch Media.

While it’s true the numbering scheme for the first digit could represent generational changes in hardware, it does seem curious that a prototype for the next generation would be “in the wild” just five months after the release of the current model. Further, the “iPhone3,1” identifier has been seen in the OS as far back as March, just three months after the iPhone 3GS identifier appeared, and three months before the iPhone 3GS was launched. It seems very unlikely that Apple was developing two generations of iPhone in tandem. It’s more likely the “iPhone3,1” identifier doesn’t represent the next generation of iPhone at all.

Mobile phone customers in the U.S., be they iPhone users or Verizon (s vz) customers, have been impatiently waiting for the day the exclusivity agreement with AT&T (s att) mercifully ends. Rather than having the fourth-generation iPhone finished today, it seems plausible that another iPhone 3GS, one that runs on Verizon’s network, is nearing production. Just last month, the CEO of Verizon said the decision for such a device “is exclusively in Apple’s court.”

Perhaps it’s on the BART, too.