The release date for Apple's iPhone 5 may be drawing near, as rumors and speculations have been at an all- time high in the past couple of weeks. Yet another bit of evidence has surfaced, which may indicate that Apple is testing its next-generation smartphone, the iPhone 5.

Just days after the alleged launch date for the device was leaked, which is said to come in September, screen grabs of the iPhone 5 have popped up. According to Tech Crunch, a reliable source sent the publication a prototype that has shown up in server logs. There hasn't been much information on the session that the prototype was engaged in, but the model that surfaced in the server logs was titled "iPhone5,2." As of now, it is unclear as to whether or not this will remain an internal test.

The current iPhone 4S is known as iPhone 4.1 in its operating system firmware, and the iPhone 5.2 is believed to be the next version of Apple's smartphone, says Tech Source. This provides evidence that Apple employees have their hands on the device and are currently testing iPhone 5 prototypes.

The technology news source has not specified where the tip came from, but Michael Nace of the iPhone 5 News Blog speculates that it could be an Apple partner such as a mobile network provider or top retailer.

This is similar to what happened when the new iPad with Retina Display was preparing for its launch. The tablet device surfaced in some Ars Techina server logs before the big announcement came in March. This could provide some insight as to what Apple's production cycle is like: first they test, then they produce and perform another test before mass production begins.

However, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company is known for being tight-lipped when it comes to product details and information before their devices are released. Therefore, Apple has been known to change up their production schedule from time to time.

"One of the most difficult things to discern with Apple are their patterns, since they always appear to deliberately change them up in order to keep speculation and mystery high on their future product releases," Nace writes.

Reports on the production status of the iPhone 5 can be difficult to decipher, as some sources have conflicted with others over the past month. In July, a Japanese Apple blog claimed that the iPhone 5 was in production, and a report from Digitimes echoed that statement saying that Shanghai's Pegatron had begun manufacturing the Apple smartphone. However, these rumors were challenged by the folks over at BGR, who reported that Apple must go through numerous stages before mass production of the iPhone 5 could officially begin. These steps include the "engineering verification test" and the "design verification test," and BGR speculated that the units Apple were producing last month were test samples and may not reflect the final product.

This may mean that the iPhone 5.2 prototype that Tech Crunch has just spotted could be the second phase of these steps, perhaps the "design verification test." Evidence from suppliers also supports this, as it was recently reported that Sharp has begun to ship screens that are believed to be used on Apple's iPhone 5.

"Shipments will begin in August," Sharp President Takashi Okuda said in a press briefing in Tokyo on Thursday, according to Reuters.

Apple is prepping its iPhone 5 for release amidst a prolonged courtroom debacle with rival Samsung, who has just launched its flagship smartphone for the year. Its Galaxy S3 has just recently hit its 10-million sales mark at the end of July, and the Korea-based manufacturer has also recently announced that its Galaxy Note 2 device will be unveiled at the end of August.

A number of design patents and prototypes have resulted from the Apple vs. Samsung trial, one of which contains a side-by side comparison of the iPhone and the Galaxy S smartphone before it was released. There was some debate as to the design of the devices, with Samsung Chief Strategy Officer Justin Denison saying that Apple's designs were born out of necessity rather than innovation. According to Apple Insider, Denison said that the patents for the iPhone and iPad are not unique because they describe "rectangles." The company's chief product officer Kevin Packingham echoed these statements saying that he finds it "unreasonable that we're fighting over rectangles, that that's being considered as an infringement."

Apple is expected to bring new features to its next-generation iPhone 5, and here is a list of what Apple fans may expect with the new smartphone, courtesy of Computer World:

  • 4-inch display
  • Improved quad-core processor, likely manufactured using 32nm process tech
  • Improved graphics and a better camera
  • New Dock connection, likely to be Thunderbolt or mini-USB
  • Tougher glass
  • Thinner chassis
  • International support for those 4G/LTE networks which exist
  • Much-improved iCloud integration
  • iOS 6: many improvements in Siri
  • iOS 6: Apple Maps
  • iOS 6: Passbook, potentially though not necessarily featuring NFC payment support
  • iOS 6: Facebook and Twitter integration

However, fans will have to wait to hear about the price of the iPhone 5 and the official release date, as Apple has yet to say a word.

Check out the video below to see the alleged front panel of the iPhone 5 that has just leaked from ETradeSupply.