9to5Mac reports that its sources have confirmed that a next-generation iPhone has recently reached the “advanced hardware testing” phase of its development, and is being tested on the Sprint network for a possible release later this year. The source also stated that Apple has been testing Sprint iPhones on its campus since late last year. It is typical for Apple to conduct extensive and long-term testing on devices before releasing them, especially when it comes to devices requiring cellular connectivity, such as iPhones and iPads.
This rumor is particularly interesting because in the months preceding the Verizon iPhone release, we heard identical rumors about Apple installing Verizon towers on its Cupertino, California, campus for conducting similar “advanced hardware testing” of iPhones running on the Verizon network. A few months later, those rumors came to fruition, culminating in the release of the Verizon iPhone.
Adding further fuel to this rumor’s flame is the fact that Apple has been looking for “cellular engineers” to work for them in Kansas City, not coincidentally the hometown of Sprint’s national headquarters. Sprint engineers are reportedly working with Apple on the design and testing of this new CDMA iPhone 4S, which supposedly will not support 4G in this iteration. Sources claimed that issues surrounding the use of Sprint’s 4G network may force Apple to delay the device until the release of the iPhone 5 later in 2012.
If history is to repeat itself — as it often does — we can expect a Sprint iPhone release in the United States within a few months. That is, if they choose to release it without the controversial 4G support. This would fall perfectly in line with the anticipated iPhone 4S release this September, alongside the public release of iOS 5.
The same source also stated that the release of a Sprint iPhone would most likely coincide with the release of the iPhone on T-Mobile, making the iPhone span all U.S. carriers for the first time in its history.