According to Nick Bilton at the New York Times, an unnamed Apple employee has confirmed to him that the next-gen iPhone announcement is "just weeks away." The next-gen phone will be "fairly different from the iPhone 4." Bilton's source seems to confirm multiple rumors claiming the iPhone 5 will have a redesigned case in addition to an 8-megapixel camera and an A5 processor. It's not clear whether it will be this generation of iPhone or the following one that adds integrated support for NFC, but Bilton suggests that the wireless payment technology is a high priority for Apple's mobile strategy.
In the wake of a dramatic surge of Apple rumors over the past several months, The New York Times has maintained an excellent track record of anticipating product announcements with well-sourced reports, as has The Wall Street Journal. Of note, the info from the Times coincides with tips we've received from our own sources within Apple regarding possible retail vacation blackout dates in early- to mid-October.
Bilton also took note of the appearance and then disappearance of several purported iPhone 5 case designs, which showed a different device size and possible tapered edges; he pointed out that such 'leaks' are often mostly about publicity for the case manufacturer, and are rarely accidental. That's why we opted not to write about the cases when they showed up earlier in the week: we didn't think the manufacturer's behavior with the case leak merited any additional publicity.
Here at TUAW, we do our best to sort out the wheat from the chaff when it comes to speculation and rumor; we aim to stay clear of third- or fourth-hand "in person" iPhone 5 sightings, and we don't get all CSI on a blurrycam spyshot photo of a supposed iPhone 5 -- unless it's an obvious fake, in which case we'll joyfully poke fun at it.
We're a bit burnt out on rumors at this point, and we suspect many of our readers are, too. We'll consider passing them along when they match up with what we know; when they don't, we'll let them be. And when we do corroborate rumors or publish a speculative tidbit (even one that contradicts the WSJ and NYT), that's based on our independent sourcing or the reporting of a very short list of savvy & connected Apple watchers.
We consider The New York Times to be pretty reliable, so if Bilton says the next iPhone announcement may be just weeks away, that's the next best thing to hearing it from Apple.