Originally Posted by solipsism
I'm with you on this one. I really don't think they are switching it up two weeks before they go on sale. It seems impossible that there would be a sudden change to production in China as there wold be no way to get them finished, shipped to the US and then reshipped to stores in time for the 29th. There should be millions stockpiled in warehouses ready to be shipped to local stores.
Is there anyway to tell if the ones seen in public have a plastic or glass screen?
This is not how manufacturing works these days. Companies that want to make money are all about reducing the amount of time that product sits in warehouses. For many companies, lean manufacturing has reached such a level that they never store any product but have it produced for exactly the time when it needs to be picked up. IIRC there was something here on AI a few weeks ago about Apple winning an award in this area...
On the other hand, it would be necessary to have orders in for raw materials, and components might be being accumulated before-hand; also the manufacturing processes have to be designed and the facilities prepared, so I do agree that this is not actually a design change that has taken place in the last few weeks. Given the purported (and I think reasonable) time that the iPhone has been in design, when I say "down to the wire," I mean in the past several months. That is still very close to the launch date for there to be this kind of major change in the end design.
As far as the battery life is concerned, would they have deliberately put out falsely low estimates before? No. Maybe underestimated to be on the safe side, but I don't think 3 hrs is just underestimation, especially given the fact that the few tests of prototypes that we've heard of (e.g. Shaw Wu's "sources") seem to match this spec closely. I would guess that software optimization resulted in the new longer talk times...
At this point, it's pretty certain that the hardware is finalized unless there is some major flaw discovered in the next few days (highly unlikely!). The software is probably still being worked on until the day of release and even beyond that.