The component has an outside appearance essentially identical to Apple's recently released iPhone 5. But on the inside, the component, first highlighted by Nowhereelse.fr, has a slightly tweaked design with differently placed screws.
The parts are claimed to be from a prototype for Apple's next-generation iPhone, which could be known as the "iPhone 5S," if the company follows its previous naming scheme. However, given how recently the iPhone 5 launched, it's also possible the component could be from an earlier prototype design for Apple's latest handset.
Since the launch of the iPhone 3G in 2008, Apple has kept the same external iPhone design for about two years before overhauling its appearance. The iPhone 3G and iPhone 4 were succeeded by the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4S in the following respective calendar years.
If that trend continues, a so-called "iPhone 5S" would have essentially same exterior as the current iPhone 5, with any changes made on the inside.
The back panel of the mystery iPhone part has 'X' marks replacing information such as the model number, FCC ID and IMEI number. Previous prototype handsets that have been photographed have also done this.
While the pictures may show a component from a prototype for a future iPhone, Apple is generally not expected to update its handset until late 2013, or about a year after the launch of the iPhone 5.