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iPhone rumored to get wireless movie, TV downloads

A new rumor, complete with supposed screenshots, maintains that Apple is on the verge of allowing movie and TV show downloads directly from an iPhone or iPod touch.

According to the blogger reporting the purported find, a friend who downloaded the latest version of the iPhone app TwitterFon claims to have discovered three mobile ads from Apple that pointed to "iTunes Movies," "iTunes Movie Rentals" and "iTunes TV."

Rather than take the visitor to a website, however, tapping one of the ads is said to switch to the mobile iTunes client and shows what appears to be a work-in-progress video section of Apple's mobile store. Viewers can browse genres and see featured items, but tapping the actual videos themselves produces a notice that the content is "not available." Promos for episodes and movies are missing.

The section was reportedly in a rough enough state when viewed that a navigation bar used to filter by music videos, movies and TV shows wasn't there at one point in the day and appeared the next. It's possible that Apple was building the portal in a live environment, the report suggests.

A video store would signal a loosening of the restrictions surrounding video downloads on the iPhone. Since adding the podcast section to the iTunes Store, Apple has allowed downloading video podcasts whenever one of its handheld devices is connected through Wi-Fi but has never permitted paid video downloads, in part because of the lengthy wait to download hundreds of megabytes of content.

iTunes TV genres

iTunes TV list iTunes movie list

While the authenticity of the rumor hasn't been corroborated outside of the seemingly real screenshots taken to show the new store portal's existence, its appearance comes just as Apple is poised to introduce 802.11n WiFi to its handhelds. The wireless standard is about four times faster than the 802.11g the iPhone and iPod touch use today and would significantly shorten the time spent waiting for downloads that would otherwise be interminable with fast-enough Internet connections or less-than-ideal WiFi reception.

The blogger's friend didn't make any assertions as to whether or not videos would work over 3G, though carrier concerns about overloading the network would most likely keep paid content restricted to WiFi in the same way that video podcasts are restricted today.

The testing would also come just a few weeks before Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in June.