By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
June 7, 2008

[Update: The real thing, at right, taken from Apple’s website after the keynote. The 8BG model comes only in black; the 16 GB also comes in white.]

With only a couple of days to go before Steve Jobs’ June 9 keynote — and with millions of 3G iPhones reportedly shipped and ready to sell — it’s a miracle that nobody outside a small circle of loyal employees, NDA-bound suppliers and (we presume) a few hand-picked reporters has set eyes on one.

Or maybe we have. Since early April, the Apple rumor mill has been steadily grinding out specs and spy photos purporting to represent the new iPhone. Most are surely red herrings or Photoshop creations. But what if one of them is real?

Just in case, here’s a collection of the images that have come across my desk over the past few months. If you’ve seen more — or better — send me the links, and I’ll pop them in. [Subscribers: click here to see what I’m talking about.]

April 3: U.S. This one with a shiny black plastic back looked promising for a couple weeks…

April 17: U.S. A shot of one of the many iPhone cases available for sale in Hong Kong.

April 30: U.S. iLounge. Third-party manufacturers have already started building products using the specs in the diagram below, according to iLounge. “Photographs matching these details are apparently authentic,” says iLounge’s Jeremy Horwitz, “ones that do not, are not.”

May 5: China, This is the first of several white 3G iPhone spy shots. Note the similarity of the second image to the iLounge specs above.

May 19: U.S. These crisp, professionally produced images are white and rounded, but lack some of the details that have become conventional wisdom, like the Apple logo and the distinctive base.

May 26: Greece, These shots, formatted to resemble an Apple ad, bear little resemblance to any of the others, but they do pick up the iLounge color scheme.

May 27: The Netherlands, Another white iPhone entry, this one from the Netherlands.

June 1: U.S. iPhone Atlas. This matte-black version was allegedly obtained last week during the filming of a 3G iPhone commercial at Apple’s Fifth Ave store in New York City, but Arnold Kim of MacRumors points out that it’s actually a custom iPhone that’s been knocking around since last December. See here.

June 2: U.S. Cult of Mac. Not a spy shot, but rather Leander Kahney’s way of showing what an iPhone that’s 22% thinner looks like.

June 6: U.S. CrunchGear. Taken from what looks like an Apple or AT&T promotional brochure, this collection of images has the ring of truth. Either that or the fakes are getting more sophisticated.

Those are the spy shots I’ve seen. Take them all with a grain of salt and note that none has yet been pulled off the Web by Apple (AAPL) legal.

June 9: U.S. The real thing. It goes on sale on Wednesday, July 11, for $199 (8GB) and $299 (16GB).

[Images reposted by kind permission of the Mac Observer, iLounge, MobileWhack, iphonehellas, iPhoneclub, CrunchGear and Engadget.]

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