There's nothing like Apple's iPhone to get the rumor mills churning. Today, for example, the iPhone 4 passed through the FCC's certification database for the second week in a row. In the filing you'll find the standard paperwork about the phone's specific absorption rate, plus a diagram of its rear face. All things considered, it's pretty boring stuff including the attached request for confidentiality.
This morning Patently Apple posted the June 4 request and speculated that perhaps Apple was trying to hide technical details from the public. Indeed, that is what's happening here, but it's not nearly as exciting or surprising as some rumors suggest. So go ahead and put away those Verizon and "magical hidden feature" conspiracy theories.
Like many other cell phone manufactures, Apple needs to start the FCC testing process several weeks before its new handset is unveiled. So to keep news about the iPhone 4 secret and to prevent anyone from prying through the FCC's public records, the company's letter(PDF) asked the Feds to keep the phone's very existence secret.
Apple also asked the FCC to keep materials like cellular radio schematics and the operational diagram permanently confidential. Again, it's all par for the course since those documents cover intellectual property and trade secrets. And don't be swayed by the different FCC IDs (BCG-E2380A vs. BCG-E2380B). Both numbers refer to GSM iPhone 4 models that are virtually identical except that they have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios made by different vendors.
Like it did (PDF) with the iPhone 3GS, the company also requested that the iPhone 4's SAR test setup photographs, its external and internal photographs, and its user manual be kept under wraps for 45 days from "the date certification is granted." Though quick math finds that 45 days from June 4 would be Monday July 19--well after the iPhone 4's June 24 release date--keep in mind that the confidentially request date is not the same as the certification date. Keeping device photos confidential would be pointless once users have the iPhone 4 in their hands and are free to photograph the inside and outside at will. Also, there's no way Apple could keep the user manual confidential after the handset goes on sale.
So, no, at this point we don't believe Apple is hiding a new surprise that we'll hear about it after next Thursday. But if you think differently, tell us below.