Interesting Theory: Next iPod Touch to Come with 3G

Ok, for those of you that made it past the oh-no-not-again rumor-esque title, I have an interesting theory to throw your way. No, this isn’t another article regarding next-gen iPhone rumors, though it is undoubtedly related.

9to5Mac passed along an intriguing report coming from a Dutch publication known as AppleSpot. The blog is claiming that Apple is looking to change the handheld electronics market again this fall, by adding 3G data connectivity to their iPod Touch line. I know this must sound crazy, but humor me for a minute…

Obviously, there’s been plenty of rumors suggesting 2 variations of the iPhone this fall, one high-end and one low-end. More recently, the gossip has pointed to the possibility of an iPod Touch with 3G phone service to make up the lower-end model.

But consider this, an iPod Touch that has built-in 3G data only, no voice. Not only would this break the Wi-Fi-only restriction on the device for app and music downloads, it would give users the ability to use services like FaceTime and iMessage while out and about.

So video chat and text messaging are nice, but what about voice calls? Without 3G voice capability, is there any way this thing could make phone calls? Of course! Any VOIP app would do the trick. There’s Skype and Viber to name a couple, or Apple could conceivably develop its own VOIP platform. (iTalk?)

Ok, now that we can download apps, text message and make phone calls, where do we get the 3G connection? This one is a doozy, and could play out in a couple of ways. One would be the obvious — major carriers. Build-in a universal 3G chipset and let users hook it up to the provider of their choice.

The next way is a little more out there, but try and stay with me. Over the last few years, there has been some speculation that Apple was looking into becoming their own wireless carrier. In fact, it was a popular topic just before they launched the original iPhone.

Though much of that talk has died out, an interesting patent surfaced last month regarding Apple’s work with MVNO, or Mobile Virtual Network Operator, systems. The filing explains a system where carriers rent their unused wireless spectrum to Apple, who would then offer the service at a discount to users.

While “renting network space” isn’t a new idea, the thought of doing it across multiple carriers is (talk about coverage). Add into the mix that Steve Jobs and company could sell blocks of prepaid data service to customers through their iTunes platform, and I think you’ve really got something.

Of course, I’ll give the usual “the above information hasn’t been confirmed” line, but hopefully the article evoked some outside-the-box thinking. Who says Apple can’t release an iPod Touch with 3G data capabilities? Users could call, text and surf the web, for considerably less than the average phone bill.

What do you think?