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Sunday, November 29, 2009, 06:25 pm PT (09:25 pm ET)

Evidence of Apple's new iPhone model, Maps application uncovered

Signs of a new iPhone hardware model being tested online and Apple's interest in updating the handset's built-in Maps application have been revealed.

A handset identifying itself as "iPhone 3,1" was tracked by PinchMedia in its application iBART for San Francisco public transportation. According to MacRumors, iPhone 3,1 appeared in its usage logs during November.

The reference could signify a new iPhone model with major hardware changes, as Apple only changes the first number in a product's identifier string when it receives a significant upgrade. The current iPhone 3GS carries the identifier iPhone 2,1 while the original iPhone identifies itself as iPhone 1,1, and the iPhone 3G — which featured minor architectural changes from its predecessor — is iPhone 1,2.

Apple's use of 3,1 implies major and distinct changes, a practice that it also uses with its Mac lineup. References in software to an iPhone 3,1 have existed for some time, but the alleged use of the unreleased hardware would be a first.

Early this year, signs of iPhone 2,1 began appearing online. That hardware was eventually released months later, in June, as the iPhone 3GS.

Apple has released all of its iPhone updates in the summer. Recent rumors have suggested that the company could release a Verizon-capable phone in 2010.

Also revealed this weekend was a new job listing from Apple for a software engineer to work on the iPhone Maps application. The listing seeks a full-time employee to work in Cupertino, Calif., on the software.

"The iPhone has revolutionized the mobile industry and has changed people's lives and we want to continue to do so," the listing reads. "We want to take Maps to the next level, rethink how users use Maps and change the way people find things. We want to do this in a seamless, highly interactive and enjoyable way. We've only just started."

The description is particularly interesting because Apple quietly purchased a Google Maps competitor, Placebase, this summer. The worldwide mapping company offered products that would aggregate data on subjects such as demographics, home sales, crime, mortgage lending, school performance and more.

In addition, the existing Maps application has been a point of contention between Apple and Google. Apple rejected the Google Latitude app because it was reportedly thought the software would only be confused with the default Maps application. Google instead released a Web-based version of the software.

Google has added additional functionality to its own Android-powered handsets with Google Maps Navigation, a free turn-by-turn voice guidance system part of the new Motorola Droid. Google has said it would like to bring the software to the iPhone, if Apple approves.

Earlier this month, AppleInsider revealed that Apple is looking to hire an in-house game developer to create original content for the iPhone and iPod touch. To date, Apple has only released one first-party game for the iPhone, Texas Hold'em. The job listing could signify that the handset maker is looking to create more of its own games.