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Based on some connect-the-dots theory, Apple might be gearing up to launch a next-gen iPhone/iPod Touch in the not-too-distant future thanks to some industry data on flash memory chips.

Last year, around the same time now, Apple placed an order for about 50 million 8GB NAND flash memory chips and many people speculated that the iPhone 3G and updated iPod Touch will be launched, which, with the benefit of hindsight turned out to be true.

iPod Touch pic

Now they are repeating the exact same thing this year, except they have doubled the order to 100 million such memory chips, suggesting perhaps the same pattern?

More to that, references to a next-gen iPhone-like device have been found in the latest iPhone OS 3.0 after hackers have a field day ripping through the source code. The new device appears to support some new features hidden in the operating system. Perhaps we won’t need to wait much longer than the June/July period, which is also coincidentally the time period when Apple CEO Steve Jobs is slated to return to the company (he took 6-month leave due to health concerns last year).

Thus, it’s no stretch of the imagination that we will have another new device on our hands, and possibly a lot of early adopters will be selling their superseded devices for cheap in the second-hand bin. =)

Note that the chips are in 8 gigabits, or 1GB denominations, so Apple has 100 million GB to play around with to create a combination of 8, 16 and 32GB devices. It’s still a large number though!