Analytics firm Pinch Media, which spotted the iPhone 3GS roaming online last year, now says it's seen the device string for the new iPod multiple times since April.
At least "a few dozen" different examples have been spotted and have all exhibited a familiar pattern of running about two dozen major, frequently used third-party apps. Few common threads exist other than the apps' popularity, Pinch says. The usage pattern repeats the one seen for the iPhone 3GS and directly suggests that Apple is testing compatibility with the new iPod touch to guard against any show-stopping flaws before the device goes live.
Signs of iPod 3,1 were first seen in early iPhone 3.0 betas, where the hardware ID was shown alongside present and, at the time, unreleased Apple handhelds. As before, Apple's naming scheme alludes to a substantial overhaul rather than just a minor refresh: the first number always refers to a major generational leap while the second refers to less conspicuous updates. Today's second-generation iPod touch is, accordingly, usually listed as iPod 2,1.
Determining when this new iPod touch will be released based on this data is more difficult. The iPhone 3GS was seen as early as October 2008 but wasn't released until eight months later -- something unlikely to repeat itself with the iPod, which normally borrows components from the iPhone that preceded it and needs less initial testing as a result. In the short two-year history of Apple's touchscreen devices, the iPod touch has always been updated in a special music-themed event held in September.