Urban Legend No More

Crow, meet mouth. One week after I called the iPhone an urban legend, it's now been reported that Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) has filed a patent for the product, which could combine the digital media functions of an iPod with a phone.

Or not. Media reports say the patent is anything but specific. Instead, it describes a "portable computing device capable of wireless communications," BusinessWeek reports. Am I the only one who thinks that sounds no different than what Palm (Nasdaq: PALM  ) already offers with its wireless-enabled personal digital assistants?

Perhaps the difference lies in the application's reference to an earlier patent for a "media player system." Even so, that could be an iPod with an FM tuner. Or Wi-Fi, as is the case with Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Zune.

But an iPhone seems most likely, if only because carriers and phone makers alike have been banging at the walls of iTunes for a while. Witness Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) , which teamed with Microsoft to create the V CAST mobile entertainment service. And don't forget Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) , which spent $60 million in August to acquire Loudeye.

Of course, there's more at work here than defending the multi-billion-dollar niche created by the iPod. Research also supports the idea of an iPhone. Analyst ABI, for example, says that the market for downloads to mobile devices, including cell phones, will expand by more than 80% annually through 2011. Too optimistic, you say? Maybe, but even 20% growth is worth chasing, especially for a fast-mover like Apple.

Finally, and while it's entirely unscientific to say so, the naked truth for me is that, the minute I read that an iPhone could be real, I told my wife to go easy on the Christmas gifts. Better to save money for something I know I'll really want.

Put me on your list, Apple.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers, ranked 1,912 out of 14,611 in Motley Fool CAPS, owns shares of Nokia and a MacBookPro. He'll not be selling either for a while. Get the skinny on everything else Tim is invested in by checking his Fool profile. Palm is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is delicious but never in the red.

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