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White iPhone 5 to beat white iPhone 4 to white iPhone shops?

The white iPhone 4 has yet to go on sale, but there are already rumours about a white iPhone 5. It's probably a good thing that there's no release date attached to the speculation.

A white iPhone 5? This might seem like a cruel joke on our part, given the fact that the white iPhone 4 still hasn't gone on sale. We're not making it up though: reports in China claim that Apple has got its suppliers sorted for a blanc-generation version of the iPhone.

Specifically, the Chinese-language Economic Daily News claims that local firm Wintek will be the sole touch-panel supplier for the white iPhone 5 -- the original article is here, and DigiTimes' translation is here.

There's no information on whether this will be launched instead of the white iPhone 4, or alongside it. Earlier this year, the latter turned up in the inventory databases of Best Buy in the US and Vodafone in Germany, hinting at a February sale date.

The white and black iPhone 4s were unveiled together at Apple's WWDC conference in June last year, but the following month, Apple announced that the white model would be delayed, saying it was "more challenging to manufacture than we originally expected". It targeted a launch before the end of 2010, but missed this second deadline.

The question now is whether the white iPhone 4 will actually go on sale, since Apple may prefer to pile its manufacturing efforts into the white iPhone 5 instead. There will clearly be a demand for the latter: in 2010, there was a lucrative black (well, not-black) market for kits to turn black iPhone 4s into white ones.

With Apple expected to hold a media event next Wednesday to introduce its iPad 2, we may hear more on the white iPhone 4 front then.