The new Apple Inc. iPhone 5 is displayed for a photograph during an event in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. (David Paul Morris/BLOOMBERG)

Another day, another iPhone rumor. The latest buzz coming out of the company’s leaky — but not always reliable — supplier chain is that the company is following the Android crowd with several models of the iPhone this year.

That alone might set some Apple watchers reaching for their salt shakers, but it gets even shakier: Rumor has it at least one of the three models Apple’s planning is called the ‘iPhone Math,’ which will have a 4.8-inch screen. The others, reports say, will be a 4-inch iPhone 5S and a mysterious phone with a 12 MP camera set for a year-end release.

Apple can be unpredictable, but these rumors seem very questionable at best. They do, however, point to at least one concern that investors and others have raised about the company in recent month: that Apple should release more models to compete in multiple markets. The predictions also offer a possible explanation for why Apple may have changed its screen orders with certain suppliers.

The report originated with unnamed supplier sources in the China Times and Taiwanese Commercial Times, then repackaged into English by the site BrightWire, which translates investment news from around the world. From there, it was picked up on Apple blogs, including 9 to 5 Mac and AppleInsider, with nearly everyone saying that the rumor just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. (9 to 5 Mac’s Marc Gurman did a particularly good job of analyzing the reports.)

Several aspects of the report invite skepticism. The iPhone Math name alone sounds more suited to an iPhone/graphing calculator hybrid. And the timing mentioned in the report indicates Apple will release the Math and the 5S before the end of June, with the third phone to follow before the end of the year — flouting the fall announcement schedule that’s become Apple’s new normal.

Throwing a bunch of products into the mix also isn’t really Apple’s style. The company has been careful — almost restrictive, depending on your perspective — with its developers to ensure that their programs easily adapt to all screen sizes. Look no further than the care developers took before bumping the iPhone’s screen from 3.5 inches to 4 inches. If this latest rumor is true, it indicates that the Cupertino, Calif., tech giant is uncharacteristically throwing some of that care out the window. This goes far beyond reports that Apple may be considering releasing a phone made of cheaper materials to address a growing lower-end market. It also indicates that the company is willing to try any number of device incarnations to see what sticks with consumers — definitely inconsistent with the company’s reputation.

As Brightwire acknowledged in a new note that accompanies its clipping on the report: “It is important to note that this story is still a rumor — Apple has not made official comments or confirmed existence of this device. We will be continuing to provide updates as this story develops.”

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Rumors about cheaper Apple iPhone resurface

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