The latest iPhone 4 (Kin Cheung/Associated Press)

The potential for a new Apple product has produced not only a frenzy of speculation, but a flurry of creativity on the part of Apple aficionados. We take a look at the innovation of the collective imagination.

A key component of innovation is collaboration. Although it has been argued that the crowd-sourcing of ideas has its downside, it presents an opportunity to observe trends in consumer wants and needs, as well as how consumers have come to understand a company or a particular product — to say nothing of brand loyalty.

The recreational or satirical creation of yet-to-be-released Apple products is, clearly, free advertising for Apple, and an opportunity for the company to see what features consumers are looking for in the next generation of technology products, while simultaneously knowing how to surprise them. Apple is not unique when it comes to this type of consumer activity, but it has one of one of the widest and most active followings when it comes to attempting to predict a company’s next big product.

Although Apple keeps its product development process and prototypes under a blanket of secrecy so heavy it rivals that of a U.S. intelligence agency, the company has been responsive or, at the very least, willing to incorporate features that its fans want, such as video calling and HD video recording. Remember when even the idea of a touch-screen phone from Apple was still being ground around in the rumor mill?

That consumer demand shapes innovation is nothing new, but the scale at which consumers contribute — for free — imaginative ideas that illustrate the features they wish to see from a particular company is a trend of information-sharing worth noting as Apple prepares to roll out yet another highly anticipated product.

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