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Tuesday, April 29, 2008, 09:20 am PT (12:20 pm ET)

Paper: 3G iPhone smaller, lighter than existing model [u]

Reports aiming to predict what Apple's 3G iPhone will look and feel like continue to pour in this week, with the latest claim coming by way of the Taiwan Economic News, which says the next-generation device will be both lighter and more compact than the first generation model.

Citing its own sources in the supply chain, the paper claims the new model weighs only 110 to 120 grams versus its first generation cousin's 158 grams. Much of the weight reduction is said to have come from a material swap that will see handset adopt a plastic casing instead of aluminum-magnesium one.

"In addition to weight advantage, the latest version is also more energy efficient and externally smarter," the Economic News added. "LCD screen on the phone measures 2.8 inches diagonally, a downsize from first generation`s 3.5 inches."

The Far Eastern paper also echoed a recent report from the Chinese-language Commercial Times in saying Apple has placed orders for 25 million of the devices over an unspecified time frame. Materials for an initial build of 300,000 units are reportedly due in Foxconn's manufacturing facilities by the end of next month, with a secondary build of 3 million units to take place in June.

With each new description of the 3G iPhone seemingly contradicting the others, it's important to recall that Apple is reported to have crafted bogus prototypes of the first-generation iPhone to show not just to Cingular/AT&T executives ahead of its release, but also its Apple's own workers. So it's entirely possible that quite a few decoy devices are making the rounds this time.

For the sake of completeness, there have thus far been at least four other distinctive claims as to the design of the Apple's second-ever handset. The first arrived compliments of digg founder Kevin Rose, who was notoriously off the mark with his predictions on the first-gen handset. This time around he claims the iPhone will employ two digital cameras situated back-to-back, with the one on the front side of the unit paving the way for video chat capabilities.

Wall Street analysts Gene Munster and Shaw Wu later chimed in with their own claims, saying that both a new 2.5G version of the iPhone and the 3G model would each sport a somewhat "redesigned exterior" and fetch between $349 and $399. Finally, blog site Engadget echoed claims originally waged by the iPodObserver in saying that the device would shed its aluminum backing for a black plastic one, but somewhat dubiously added that Apple was forced to make the 3G model somewhat fatter than the first-gen model in order to incorporate GPS technology.

Despite readers' penchant for discounting claims made by analysts, it should be noted that the Wall Street folks have at times nailed design aspects of unannounced Apple products. Specifically, analyst Shaw Wu in 2006 confirmed independent of AppleInsider that Apple would transition its iPod nano away from plastic enclosures and towards metal ones. Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley analyst Rebecca Runkle (now with Arience Capital) trumped all others in providing the most accurate visual descriptions and pricing information on the first-generation iPhone in the weeks leading up to its formal unveiling.