You don't need to hang around California beer halls to snag an iPhone prototype.

Tech blog M.I.C. Gadget has gotten its hands on what appears to be an iPhone 4 prototype leaked from the Foxconn factory.

I know what you're thinking. Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone 4 has been on the market for months. Who cares if a prototype is floating around? Well, the meaty morsel here is that the device packs 64 gigabytes of data storage. The iPhone 4 only comes in 16-gig and 32-gig flavors.

Is the next iPhone about to come with chunkier memory or is this just a strategy that was abandoned ahead of last year's iPhone 4 launch? It makes sense. The iPad and iPad 2 come in all three of those storage configurations. Why should the iPhone only offer two?

Storage is a big deal for Apple. Unlike many other smartphones on the market, iPhones are limited to their internal memory. There's no slot for additional flash storage. As Apple's App Store grows and owners build up their digital video collections, the demand for greater data capacity will only intensify. Even if Apple succeeds in its cloud-based media initiatives, consumers continue to lean on their smartphones as palm-sized computers.

It wouldn't be a shock if what may very well be called iPhone 5 when Apple refreshes its smartphone line in a few months comes with a 64-gigabyte model.

What other features would we need for Apple to fend off rivals over the coming year? Several rumors began making the rounds last month.

  • There could be a smaller model that will be substantially cheaper to make, allowing Apple to compete with cheaper entry-level smartphones powered by Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android through cheaper wireless carriers.
  • Taiwan's Digi Times is hearing from component suppliers that Apple's working on a slightly larger 4-inch screen for the next iPhone.
  • The tw.apple.pro website reported that one of the prototypes that Apple is considering comes with a slide-out keyboard to appeal to Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) BlackBerry owners.

It would also be nice to see Apple responding to Motorola Mobility's (NYSE: MMI) Atrix 4G, the smartphone that can be plugged into a laptop dock.

Things are moving pretty fast in this space, and Apple's annual hardware refreshes have to stand out more than ever. There is only so much that it can do with software updates along the way, though its recent iOS refresh including mobile hotspot functionality for a premium through Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T (NYSE: T) was a welcome sight.

June can't come soon enough for those trying to sort out legitimate tips from wishful thinking.

Apple introduced its new iPad just 11 months after the original. Will Apple move to shorter refresh cycles on the iPhone as well? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarrizhas several iPhones in his household, all of them legally acquired. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned here. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.