Although it seems likely that Apple will soon discontinue its legacy iPhone 3GS, some reports have said that Apple will retain the device as its cost-effective pre-paid option. Others, including us, have reported that Apple is preparing two next-generation iPhones for this fall: one as the successor to the iPhone 4 and one as a cheaper, possibly pre-paid model.

According to several sources in different countries, stock of Apple’s iPhone 3GS is quickly tightening with hardly – or even any – shipments coming through to certain regions. In addition, according to a source at one popular international carrier, the iPhone 3GS has disappeared from the stock database.

We have heard from reliable sources at a major European iPhone carrier that stock of the iPhone 3GS is unusually low, with little stock coming through for the next few weeks. An accurate source at a major U.S. based iPhone reseller also reported to us that stock of the iPhone 3GS is significantly lower than usual. In addition, this source says, similarly to what our European carriers sources reported, that no iPhone 3GS shipments are coming through to several districts in the United States. On top of all of this, an accurate source with a hand in Apple’s global channel shipping operations reports that shipments of the 3GS are rapidly decreasing with a little amount of units remaining in the channel.

Apple gradually tightens its shipments and production of products ahead of its upgrade or discontinuation. This minimizes already-replaced product inventory from the company’s product lineup (which Apple often just moves to “refurbished”). This iPhone 3GS situation is a prime example of this process.

It is also possible that Apple is preparing an upgrade to the iPhone 3GS. Perhaps they will bump the screen or change something internally (A4?). It is also entirely possible that Apple is decreasing iPhone 3GS supplies in anticipation of more people buying the next-generation iPhone.

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