The outing of the iPhone 4G in its entirety - bold, bare-faced and stripped down in plain view for all to see - will have hit Apple like a tonne of bricks. Even the most cynical observer would find it hard to believe that Cupertino Computing told a young iPhone designer to go out and get steaming in bar, leave behind a semi-disguised next generation handset and hope that it somehow makes its way onto the front page of Gizmodo. So exactly how will Apple whip the world into a new iPhone frenzy now the game's already been given away?
If you look back at the run up to previous iPhone launches and take stock of all the rumour stories - minus the ones the turned out to be nonsense with the benefit of hindsight - you notice that a pattern appears to be emerging. Now, there's clearly not enough data to suggest that this is exactly what's going on but if you look back to the 3G and 3GS, there were significant leaks at the beginning of April, the beginning of May and the beginning of June.
For the 3G we started with some leaked spy shots of the rear of the handset, then a few early specs and finally some more leaked shots and the odd stat just before launch. With the 3GS, it was word on the next generation camera in April, then the concept of the digital compass in May and some good old fashioned spy shots just before the big event itself. Until the premature unveiling of the iPhone 4G, we'd had the April leak in the shape of some remarkably accurate facts - when you compare them to what the world now seems to know - including the high-res screen, but whether we'll get more information in 2 weeks and then again one month later remains to be seen.
Of course, these timings could just be coincidence. If you look at the launch of the original iPhone, then you'll find there was nothing like this. In fact, as it happens, there were really no leaks at all. The marketing was very much a case of Apple being open and telling the world what this new wonder-toy could do. You could argue that there was no thirst out there for information before the hype had been created and so nobody picked up on what accidental leaks there might have been, but you could also argue there had been no strategic information slips in the first place.
Whether these leaks are deliberate or not, this huge expose does put us all in a rather unique position as far as Apple product launches go. Suddenly, we have all the information and all a bit early. It's well documented that "Steve likes to surprise people" as one Apple representative put it before, so exactly how is the big guy planning on maintaining the mystery over the next 2 months? Will the world care about more images of what we already know? Will Apple try a different tack for keeping the public interest up? Will there still be early May and early June leaks and, with the overwhelming popularity already out there for this series of handsets, does it really need that level or kind of publicity any more anyway?
Furthermore, how will Steve Jobs approach the announcement on stage when the moment itself unfolds? It doesn't seem like Apple's style to allow things like this to get in the way of their grand unveilings, but the company can hardly expect to bring the house down as the curtain falls around the iPhone 4G, or HD as it may end up being called. So, will the great hype-machine that is and has been actually take a different approach this time now that the cards are on the table?
As it goes, of course, all may not quite be as it seems. Apple has admitted that the stripped down handset is indeed its property - which, incidentally, Apple needn't have done; the phone was essentially remotely bricked - but it's not necessarily the final version. Something in the raw style and design is suggestive of a prototype model, so perhaps there's still plenty of room for some external and internal refinements and traditional fuzzy spy shots thereof.
Finally, even if this is an iPhone HD in its absolute entirety, that doesn't make it the end of the story. The last 3 years of Apple handset launches have been littered with references to a second or nano model being introduced into the range. Who's to say that 2010 isn't the year that we finally get it? Cue 2 more months of rumours.