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The Tales of Two Top Secret Stolen Smartphone Prototypes

Daniel Eran Dilger

The web is atwitter with reports of a top secret stolen smartphone prototype. This moment, it’s what appears to be Apple’s 4th generation iPhone. But nearly the same thing happened last year, too. Things just didn’t go as well that time.

.It is suggested that Gizmodo paid as much as $10,000 to obtain the stolen prototype phone. What it got was largely brain dead; it had been securely wiped remotely, meaning that all it does at this point is ask to be plugged into iTunes and re-imaged with fresh firmware.

So Gizmodo paid for what amounts to be alien technology that nobody outside of Apple knows how to activate into something that does anything useful. Given its wiped condition, Gizmodo can’t even say what the resolution of the screen or cameras are.

This Is Apple’s Next iPhone – Gizmodo
This All Happened Before

A year ago, a similar thing happened to Microsoft. Except that rather than being a top secret new prototype of a phone running an advanced new operating system, Microsoft lost control of a prototype device running Windows Mobile 6.5, which was being announced at the beginning of the year but wouldn’t really be ready until the end of the year.

WiMo 6.5 was already widely circulating at the time, but that didn’t stop the Telegraph from reporting, “There are fears that leaks regarding the features and early bugs in the software could mar the launch of Windows Mobile 6.5 which the company hopes will give it the edge over the iPhone and the new Google Android operating system. The new product includes support for touch-screen technology similar to that found on the Apple iPhone.”

Of course, the Telegraph was wrong, as it always it whenever it ventures into subjects that involve technology anywhere north of rubbing two sticks together to make fire. WiMo 6.5 was a complete joke of a placeholder, a slower version of WiMo 6.1 issued solely to distract from the fact that Microsoft hadn’t released Windows Mobile 7 as planned back in early 2009, and was even further away from finishing WiMo 8, which was the version purported to actually attain some parity with iPhone 1.0 features.

Microsoft has since abandoned its entire roadmap for Windows Mobile in order to release Windows Phone 7, and curiously, the new Pink / Kin phones aimed at the same demographic as the Zune ineffectually was.

But ignoring the general fiasco of Windows Mobile development, the really interesting part of the story was that Microsoft didn’t just wipe the device. In fact, it wasn’t until days later that the company insisted that it was able to wipe it. At that point, there had already been lots of gnashing of teeth over the fact that competitors might have gained access to, as the Telegraph hilariously intoned, “the prototype phone loaded with top-secret software created to rival Apple’s iPhone.”

If Microsoft’s remote wipe technology actually worked, there would not have been any story. Things would have worked out just like the iPhone prototype that was stolen. It would have been remotely deactivated to the point where anyone who obtained it would not be able to get anything off of it, nor even peruse its software feature set.

The Case of the Top Secret, Missing Windows Mobile Phone

50 comments

1 stormj { 04.19.10 at 4:18 pm }

Daniel:

Just as the tech community does a bad job at guessing what average consumers will like, they are really shitty lawyers, too. Just in case you’ve been reading around on people’s commentaries, I can assure that based on the facts reported now: (1) that it was stolen and (2) that Gizmodo paid for it, they are almost surely in a world of shit legally, no matter what people are saying.

I have spent a good part of my career doing trade secrets practice, and, even if the phone was remotely wiped, the definition of a trade secret is (arguably too) broad.

Apple may feel pressure not to go after Gizmodo because of the geek blowback that might occur, but I don’t see how they let something of this magnitude go unpunished. It sets a terrible, terrible precedent.

2 HCE { 04.19.10 at 4:24 pm }

Frankly, this whole episode is quite confusing to me. I suppose it is OK to pick up an item someone has left in a bar, maybe even photograph it but then selling it (which is what the “finder” did) or buying it and opening it up (which is what Gizmodo did) would be illegal. Apple could very easily come down like a ton of bricks on Gizmodo and they could be in serious trouble. I’m sure the guys at Gizmodo are aware of this possibility and still they have gone ahead and bought stolen property and then plastered pictures of it all over their website. Something doesn’t add up.

Either this whole thing is a fake or this “leak” was in some way authorized by Apple – either of those would explain things. However, Gizmodo’s official line sounds rather implausible to me.

– HCE

3 uberVU - social comments { 04.19.10 at 4:40 pm }

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4 cy_starkman { 04.19.10 at 4:49 pm }

I cannot “buy” the story personally.

The hardware is evidently prototype, not actual and while it is possible for a person to drop a phone out of their pocket and forget about it the way things are panning out makes this seem the least likely scenario.

Hype is one thing, MS loves it. “leaked” hype that appears as “escaped” information is another thing entirely and Apple IMHO has been quite masterful at publicly making no hype while strategically releasing information that takes a bit of effort to get at but then gets everyone even more into it.

It’s like a theatre.

I’ve also noticed that Apple has built a fairly routine marketing strategy now. Leak, Present, Release, Review. It’s a 4 month process.

And now we have 3 product groups to make for a whole year of Apple in the media. iPhone June, iPod September and iPad February. The Mac’s now work in halo mode, to example the Macbook Pro swap to i7, drop in ram prices, improved resolutions and a custom GPU switcher didn’t even get a press release or video. Macbook itself is just a part of the iPod September. Pro’s will probably be part of WWDC if it’s even a blip. Apple will likely only make a big statement when they do something radical with the Mac range.

No one dropped this phone, they placed it carefully on the ground and no doubt waited around to make sure it was picked up. They probably even scoped locations for the “drop” to make sure the right sorts would be about.

This is pure marketing.

If it wasn’t then Engadget and Gizmodo would be publishing articles about lawsuits and calling Apple and “no comment”.

The person who “found” it is theoretically just an Average Joe who at once was clued enough to know what it was and give it to the right people and yet clueless enough to not switch the prototype into Airplane Mode to defend it against being located and wiped.

Yet as an average Joe, who obviously isn’t that clever they didn’t think to take it to Apple and get special gifts and friendships? Nope a gadget fiend by all accounts who shopped it as a scoop? I doubt the reward given by Gizmodo would be up there with what Apple might have given; and yet no idea it would be wiped?

Where is the photo of “average joe” all smiles and pointing at his find, why would he be concerned about revealing his identity, not like he stole it really eh, just picked it up off the floor. Can’t be charged or sued for that.

There was no average Joe…..

Nice April build up for a May present and a June launch and a July review.

Personally I feel as though the theatre is a bit revealed in this case, light leaking in from the stage door spoiling the “act”. For me it’s the same as the OS4.0 developer release riddled with info that Apple would clearly know about and would obviously be found and definitely revealed.

I doubt there are any laws against intentional leaks but as a marketing strategy it has worn a bit thin.

It’s not exciting, it’s part of the game.

5 t0m { 04.19.10 at 4:58 pm }

I call BS at the moment on saying this is Apple leaking. APple has a few words off the record. A well aimed quote. This is new territory – and you’ll very likely find out in some way how pissed Apple is tomorrow after closing time when Apple has it’s quarterly meeting. Analysts are bound to ask – Apple could no comment, but we’ll see.

Apple doesn’t riddle the OS for the fun of it, they develop private APIs, then give to developers when ready. They work on the OS, flesh things out, and then publicly pass on.

I’d side with Gruber on this, if you can’t find a better information source. Whilst there aren’t laws against intentional leaks per se, there is law about buying stolen property.

6 danieleran { 04.19.10 at 5:06 pm }

So Apple intentionally dropped a 4G iPhone prototype in a bar, hoping that whoever picked it up would recognize it as being a valuable leak. And in order to facilitate this leak, they disguised it in an existing iPhone case so that the finder would have to take it apart to even recognize it as being new. And the finder would need to know enough about iPhones to know that its a new model. So it would need to be found by a specific subset of tech-enthusiasts, but not somebody who would just take it home or put it on eBay and ruin the whole “Apple purposefully leaked a prototype device after wiping it” scenario.

I think it’s easier to believe that the device was stolen, just like the MS phone last year, and then fenced by the thief to the highest bidder. Engadget said the phone was shopped around to the highest bidder, and indicated they’d been asked for $10k.

This makes far more sense than suggesting that Apple purposefully leaked the device to a news site that is regularly unflattering or ignorant in its ability to cover details. When Apple leaks news, it does so in such a way as to get a message out. Giving one source a dead phone with no script about how to talk about it would be a pretty incompetent way to leak details of the iPhone 4G, and would only possibly hurt existing iPhone sales over the next two months.

7 cy_starkman { 04.19.10 at 5:27 pm }

@Tom
Stolen is another story entirely. If it was skinned to conceal it and slipped out of the Infinite Loop for sale to Gizmodo heads will roll. I agree the earnings call is the likely place.

I also don’t mean to suggest Apple riddles the OS with info for the fun of it. It is required, it is an OS. I am saying that Apple would know what was in there though (doh) and that by releasing it to developers they will find it (doh) and they will share it (doh doh). NDA’s are worthless at this scale, you wouldn’t have a snow flake’s chance of finding which developer gave it away.

@Daniel
I can’t imagine how it would hurt iPhone sales over the next two months, a person buying an iPhone now must have lived under a rock for the last 3 years or have a head full of rocks. At the 6 month point I recommend to clients that they should wait for the next model if their existing mobile still works, let alone two months.

I still maintain Apple’s 4 month marketing cycle and 3 product groups are pretty obvious and the leak month is obvious. I personally had felt the OS4 “leaks” by default were the leak month news.

This was a surprise. The bar story is what is being bandied about though. The case in a case story, where is this case. Maybe I haven’t trawled enough to find it but I haven’t seen a photo of it, an “unboxing” shall we say.

I ask you. If you stole an iPhone prototype OR if you found one surely the first thing you would do is switch it to Airplane mode so it couldn’t be wiped or found. Seriously if you stole one that would be the first action to take.

Theft to me suggests an even higher skill set than some fool in a bar getting lucky so how this hi tech thief who was smart enough to conceal the phone in a phone wouldn’t have airplaned / pulled sim is ridiculous.

There are holes in this story that do not add up, that’s probably the most obvious thing of all.

8 Steve W { 04.19.10 at 5:29 pm }

When I read the title, I thought you were writing about the Chinese thief that committed suicide.

9 airmanchairman { 04.19.10 at 5:48 pm }

One can’t discount industrial espionage masquerading as a criminal act, but maybe I’m being too paranoid.

Still, you can’t disregard it in the present cut-throat climate that is the smartphone rat-race…

10 JonWade { 04.19.10 at 5:58 pm }

However they got it, they got a huge scoop!. And $10k seems like a v cheap price for all the chatter Gizmodo is getting over this news. It certainly is way more exciting to get a preview of the next gen iPhone hardware this way, and beat Apple at their own hyper-secrecy game once in a while. And… it’s giving everyone something to rant about, so whatever side you’re taking – enjoy it.

All conspiracy theories aside, the funniest tweet of the day on this topic was when @Bauart tweeted “Bill Gates tried leaving his new Microsoft “Kin” phone at a bar… It’s still there.”

11 HCE { 04.19.10 at 6:15 pm }

Well, I thought that nobody at a reputable website like Gizmodo could be brazen enough to post a video of themselves playing with stolen property but that is what they seem to have done.

Well, I was wrong. They seem to have been, in fact, even more brazen than that. They have gone ahead and named the poor sod who lost the phone and given a detailed account of how the phone was lost and found.

http://gizmodo.com/5520438/how-apple-lost-the-next-iphone

Even if the guy hasn’t been fired yet, his career at Apple is pretty much finished. Had they quietly returned the phone to the owner instead of plastering it all over their website, the guy might still have a career. Way to go Gizmodo! Hope Apple sues your pants off.

– HCE

12 danieleran { 04.19.10 at 6:21 pm }

I doesn’t seem to be a real problem for Apple, but it likely will be grief for the young baseband engineer who left his supr-sekret phone behind in a bar. Gizmodo’s followup story seems to gleefully treat it all like a joke; sure isn’t for that dude. I mean he was incompetent, but I still hope for his sake that Apple management sees that the leak wasn’t really that big of a deal and grants him some slack. That does not seem likely though.

13 HCE { 04.19.10 at 6:35 pm }

The leak really isn’t that big a deal. Assuming that it was the genuine article, what have we found out?

1. A new iPhone is coming soon but then we already knew that.
2. We know what the case looks like – except that we don’t. This is likely a prototype and the production phone will probably not look quite the same.
3. We know it has a high-def screen but that has been a rumor for quite some time.
4. We know it has a front facing camera: that has also been rumored and the recent revelations about chat functionality in iPhone OS 4 have made that rumor somewhat more likely.
5. Micro-SIM? That was expected since the iPad 3G had one.

Hope the guy gets to keep his job and hope Apple takes some action against Gizmodo and the anonymous person who “found” the phone.

– HCE

14 cy_starkman { 04.19.10 at 6:57 pm }

Hmm…

Gizmodo is copping a flogging on the article’s forum.

I’ve been pondering the situation. From a security perspective with a trackable device that has security options to open it…

Wouldn’t Apple have policies..

- that any prototype has an identifier
- that an employee assigned one has it signed to them
- that they are always tracked (it has gps)
- that any off campus action is approved with intent
- that passcode locking is mandatory
- that if it is tracked outside it’s room without approval it’s auto wiped
- that upon return to campus it’s return is verified
- that if it is turned off / disconnects from tracking this is alerted

In my part time job people have to sign out a shovel and sign it back in. Surely Apple would have such basic things in place considering how security aware they are.

Apple must have known it left the secure zone, then the building, who had it and that it didn’t come back. A month ago? Apple didn’t go to the bar and ask for security tapes the next morning, really? Apple wiped the phone before knowing its GPS, really? Apple didn’t go to said GPS and ask for it back within 24hrs, seriously?

Rather they let it hang out for a whole month!

Further, this engineer had been taking photo’s with EXIF data that would identify the device, maybe he was testing in low light real world scenarios, but he’s baseband so why would he be assigned that task. Then for no security minded reason at all Apple let him post said EXIF data on Flickr!

Gizmodo hasn’t been asked to pull the articles/shots. The guy still has his job (we are led to believe) after a month of Apple knowing.

Hmmm…

Either he was too keen and secreted it away himself so he could have fun with it and how that was missed seems impossible given it was remote wiped (so we are told) the next morning. Regardless it would have been showing up to Apple like a red light via GPS and polling the servers and all.

How can this be anything but a leak. What happened Apple went from security mad to not knowing if their engineers took secure trackable items off site and used them online A LOT.

15 HCE { 04.19.10 at 7:04 pm }

@cy_starkman

It is not that surprising that this guy had the device. Chances are he was field testing it. That would involve carrying the phone to all sorts of places to make sure that reception, call quality, internet connectivity, GPS etc are all at expected levels. The last thing Apple wants is to release this thing and then find out that they have issues with some or all of the above. I’m sure that there are plenty of Apple (and perhaps AT&T) engineers walking around with these devices.

– HCE

16 ericgen { 04.19.10 at 7:20 pm }

Given the tone of the Gizmodo article, it looks like they’re doing a lot of CYA. I would guess that they were counseled to do this. They lay out a case where the person who found the phone tried to give it back to Apple, but no one at Apple took him seriously. They also tried to make it sound like Gizmodo were the good guys for calling the engineer to try to give the phone back.

Now maybe this is all part of the conspiracy theory of the controlled leak and Gizmodo is just playing it up to make it look more real. But, and of course I’m just guessing, I think that their attorneys told them that they were much further out on a limb than they thought they were. The tone of this latest Gizmodo article is much more subdued and explanatory (in a, “Now let me tell you what actually happened…” and a “We’re really the good guys in this story” manner) with a convenient timeline. The earlier articles and tweets had a lot more bravado and braggadocio.

Maybe it’s all just elaborate theatre, but it looks more like a belated attempt at CYA to me.

17 cy_starkman { 04.19.10 at 7:47 pm }

@ HCE

I totally agree. I reckon that Apple would be monitoring that like a Hawk on a mouse though.

You don’t have people padlocking stuff away in dark rooms at the same time as having no idea where field test units are or if they didn’t come back.

@ericgen

I actually believe the story that no one took him seriously, regardless of if it is actually true or not. Ever tried calling up one of these monster companies, even getting a number beyond 1800 help is nigh impossible, if you do you tend to reach some Ultimate Gatekeeper who is honed in basically screening and rejected anyone who calls. Cause if you had business with the company, you would have a name and a direct number.

I walked into a Google office on some business and was told by the front desk reception that I had to email her cause that was the only way to communicate with reception (regardless I was actually communicating with her). Which I did right there and then. Didn’t help any of course. The whole thing was ridiculous.

18 ericgen { 04.19.10 at 7:58 pm }

@cy_starkman

I’m not arguing the plausibility of their story. I’m noting the significant change in tone and how they are suddenly laying out a methodical story to address many of the points that various people have been raising all day.

Some of it, or all of it, may be true. But, I feel that the sudden change of tone coupled with the detailed layout of why they’re really the ‘good guys’ in this is lawyer induced.

I also view it as very telling that we’ve heard nothing from Apple legal. Many people are speculating that this is because Apple is in on the deal. This is always possible.

However, when Apple is seriously going to mess someone up, they take their time and methodically make a case. They nothing to gain at this point by a take-down notice. They could have done that quickly and easily but it would have had no real effect upon the story, as it has already spread.

A real legal challenge takes time to put together correctly. The next days, weeks, or months may prove very interesting.

19 stormj { 04.19.10 at 7:58 pm }

Another question I have: Gizmodo was the highest bidder? No Industrial Spy out there was offering more?

20 stormj { 04.19.10 at 8:00 pm }

P.S. Gizmodo apparently doesn’t realize where their bread is buttered… they spent half the last article attacking Apple, basically making it sound like the Beria-era KGB… but they report on Apple all day long. Sigh.

21 cy_starkman { 04.19.10 at 8:03 pm }

@ericgen

I agree

@stormj

Now that is an interesting question. Who would you call though. HTC?

I’d figure Eric over at Google wouldn’t be much help, he’s still trying to get Jobs to acknowledge that he’s part of the in crowd.

Yeah I’d say, Nokia or HTC. They would pay much much more.

22 Frumius { 04.19.10 at 8:05 pm }

Wow, a lot of intelligent speculation and discussion, as I have come to expect here at Roughly Drafted Magazine. I can’t wait to see how this pans out; all we have is speculation at this point.

(My first RDM post! :) )

23 berult { 04.19.10 at 8:45 pm }

Granted that in the final testing phase of a prototype the probability of a major leak goes way up. Field testing multiple units by numerous hands makes the developer walk on a tightrope for a few weeks prior to launch. Things can go wrong and it did, not unexpectedly for Apple.

This is no ploy by Apple by any means. It doesn’t need to play cynical games to sell products to consumers; it needs enduring relevancy delivered with utmost integrity. It has to be systemic, always consistent.

A young man’s Life just got reengineered by Geeks up in arms with Apple’s creed. Plain and simple.

The device that’s been described surely deserves full disclosure in its own timeframe. I find it extremely promising and elegant, most unworthy of the greed and cynicism of yellow payback journalism.

I do wish Justice be done. To the fallible young man, to ethical journalistic behavior and to me.

24 Dorotea { 04.19.10 at 9:03 pm }

Hmm. Gizmodo bought property that they thought belonged to Apple? Isn’t that illegal? Pretty sleezy if you ask me.

25 MikieV { 04.19.10 at 9:12 pm }

cy_starkman wrote:

“I ask you. If you stole an iPhone prototype OR if you found one surely the first thing you would do is switch it to Airplane mode so it couldn’t be wiped or found. Seriously if you stole one that would be the first action to take.”

The question is: Would Apple allow a “top secret” prototype phone to even have an airplane mode?

26 wedgeredleader { 04.19.10 at 9:13 pm }

This is my first post on this site. Knowing how apple products are designed the pictures on gizmodo point in the direction that this is a hoax. If you look (not even closely) next to the dock connector you will see one Phillips screw on each side of connector. Apple hasn’t been one to put Phillips screws on their mobile phones or iPods, iPads. Even if Apple were to put screws on this phone I doubt they would be standard run of the mill phillips, I think they would use torx screws or something less… Common.

[I had a similar first impression based on the fuzzy Loch Ness Monster type photos Engadget posted. However, the lines of the prototype are plausible for an Apple device, and even the exposed screws are not new; the iPhone 3G and 3GS both have exposed Phillips screws on either side of the Dock Connector, they're just recessed slightly (MacBooks all have Phillips screws holding the bottom plate in place, too). To me, the design looks like a throwback to the TiBook or perhaps a little of Apple's angular Snow White design of the late 80s. - Dan]

27 wedgeredleader { 04.19.10 at 9:58 pm }

Thanks for the insight Dan. I really haven’t had many chances to look at a 3g or 3gs. But I do like Tibooks (my favorite laptop.) I hope this mystery clears up soon. -Finley

28 broadbean { 04.19.10 at 10:15 pm }

@wedgeredleader
“If you look (not even closely) next to the dock connector you will see one Phillips screw on each side of connector. Apple hasn’t been one to put Phillips screws on their mobile phones or iPods, iPads.”

Actually yes, have a closer look at an iPhone 3G or 3GS…

29 donarb { 04.19.10 at 10:33 pm }

Well, Gizmodo just posted a letter they received from Apple legal. If you read the letter, it’s very short. I think Apple spent the better part of the day crafting this message to have the maximum effect, which is basically “You have something of ours, we’d like it back”. No threats, no blustering, no explanations. So Gizmodo, holding onto a 5 ounce chunk of plutonium, is now saying “Wow, now we know who it belongs to, we were just gonna call you”. Fuckers!

30 HCE { 04.19.10 at 10:42 pm }

@cy_starkman

> You don’t have people padlocking stuff away in dark rooms at the
> same time as having no idea where field test units are or if they
> didn’t come back.

Once you remote wipe the device, I doubt if they can track it using a service like find my iPhone. Looks like the guy, once he realized he had lost the device, decided to remote wipe it – thus preventing Apple from being able to track it.

Guess the device is very much legit. Apple has contacted Gizmodo and wants the phone back (they just posted Apple’s letter on their website).

– HCE

31 gus2000 { 04.19.10 at 11:06 pm }

1. This is not industrial espionage. The world has cracked, tested, disassembled and blended the original iPhone since 2007, and still no one has bested it. Oh noes, they saw a prototype 2 months early…

2. Prototypes are just that. The features seen here are not guaranteed to be in the final product. If the thing was finished, they’d ship it.

3. Accident my ass. I could be three sheets to the wind and have Kate Beckinsale asking me back to her place, and I’d still know better than to leave a prototype El Jobso creation lying around.

4. My guess is the engineer sold it to a middleman and they agreed to make up the “lost it in a bar” story, or the middleman stole it from the drunken engineer and the story was concocted as a CYA.

5. I’m tired of the Gizmodo commenters that are simultaneously chiding the blog for indiscretion, while simultaneously clamoring for moar moar MOAR information.

6. I will not miss the curved back of the 3G/3GS.

32 macpeter { 04.19.10 at 11:40 pm }

Gizmodo and the finder/thief are relatively safe until the day of the official release, because each action of Apple now would confirm the story and make it more public. But after the release of the iPhone 4G Gizmodo should be prepared for a million dollar lawsuit, because the hole lost/find story is bullshit.
The first thing if you lose your phone is try to call the “honest” finder. But maybe this guy want a finder´s reward in millions so Apple decided to wipe the phone and wait for somebody who is stupid enough to pay for stolen goods and try to make profit of this. Apple will make an example on Gizmodo so in future anybody will know trying to make money with stolen or even lost Apple secrets will never be a good deal.

33 Maniac { 04.20.10 at 2:29 am }

The whole story is just too full of holes, no matter how you look at it. Intentional or not, stolen or lost, conspiracy or sheer coincidence, it all seems bogus.

If Apple didn’t stage the whole thing, there many implausibilities. I don’t believe anybody who was entrusted with an iPhone prototype would risk getting his nuts crushed by either losing it or selling it. Certainly each and every one of the prototypes would have to be accounted for 24/7.

Anybody intentionally or unintentionally losing possession of one of them would instantly be caught. Gray should have run back to that bar in a blind panic the instant he realized the prototype was missing. But he didn’t, apparently.

And that whole “found in a bar” story sounds completely bogus. The finder should have given it to the manager of the bar when Gray didn’t return to get it. And, as has been mentioned, Gray or somebody at Apple should have called the phone. If there was no criminal intent on the “finder’s” part, he should have answered and agreed to return it.

But no, the “finder” ended up shopping it around and found a sucker at Gizmodo. And then Gizmodo publicly admitted that they bought it not knowing it was ‘stolen’ in their own words. You don’t need to know an item was stolen to be legally implicated as an accomplice in the theft.

Then, why did it take Apple legal so long to move against Gizmodo? I can understand not doing anything until they found out where the prototype was and who had it. But to wait several days after Giz had published photos? And then videos? That’s suspicious.

Which brings us to the Apple conspiracy theory, which is also completely riddled with holes and inconsistencies. Why would Apple cook up such a crazy story? Isn’t it better to have an anonymous Chinese parts supplier do the leaking?

And isn’t it just a little too soon to start hyping the 2010 iPhone? The 3G iPad hasn’t even hit the streets yet. Apple really needs to keep hammering the media and public with iPad right now, to make its launch as strong as possible. All this insane speculation about the prototype and how close it is to the production 2010 iPhone is only drawing eyes away from the iPad 3G release.

There are either a few incredibly stupid individuals involved (theft or accidental loss) or a small group of moderately stupid people involved (coordinated Apple / Giz conspiracy). Unbelievable.

34 macpeter { 04.20.10 at 3:28 am }

Gizmodo made their next and maybe last mistake and publish a Apple letter to confirm their story. Till this moment the iPhone fotos were still in the category of rumor, and Apple offer Gizmodo a last chance to solve the problem without unnecessary publicity.
But instead of limiting the damage they add fuel to the fire.
This will break any chance for a plausible defence strategy and Gizmodo now can be sure that Apple will sue them till this blog site is history.
And some people will went to jail only for 5 minutes of fame.

35 Maniac { 04.20.10 at 3:40 am }

@macpeter I never could stand reading Gizmodo anyway. They make even 9to5Mac sound like Hemingway.

36 Per { 04.20.10 at 4:09 am }

I think it’s very cynical and in bad taste to see this as a PR stunt. Apple still gets enough free PR to get around. They don’t need this to “stop the media from talking about Android” as some Gizmodo commenters seem to believe.

They most likely paid thousands of dollars for something that was obviously stolen. Posted pictures and information about it on a their site that gets a lot of traffic. Then they post name and picture of the guy they claim lost it. Then they try to play innocent about the whole thing, as if they were helping both Apple and that poor engineer who would have been the subject of Steve Jobs’s wrath unless they had posted his name.

I hope both Apple and Powell sue Gizmodo into the dark ages.

37 ShabbaRanks { 04.20.10 at 4:19 am }

Getting away from the obvious legal issues involved here, am I really the only one who doesn’t want to know what’s in the next iPhone, iPad, iMac etc?
Half the excitement, for me, is the announcement of new models and features, complete with a reality distorting presentation from the master salesman himself. Pics of some poor hacked up and lobotomised prototype seems kinda sad.

38 FreeRange { 04.20.10 at 5:19 am }

This is not stealing, its corporate espionage. People go to jail for this kind of activity, and so should these idiots. This kind of behavior needs to be criminally prosecuted. The impact of what they have done can cost Apple at least in the 10′s of millions of dollars and possibly in the 100′s of millions. These people are scum – this is not journalism and freedom of the press. This is a crime. I’m a stockholder and mad as hell.

39 TenThousandThings { 04.20.10 at 5:52 am }

Someone managed to get the name of the “owner” and his Facebook account before the phone was wiped. Plus, they knew he is an Apple employee.

There was no good-faith effort to return the phone. The person who “found” it had plenty of information with which to track down the guy and return it to him. Or they should have given it to the bartender to put in the lost and found.

Instead, they sold it to the highest bidder.

40 marian_ { 04.20.10 at 8:24 am }

Re illegal/stealing:
According to gizmodo’s story, there was no foul play.
The person who found it in the bar tried to return it to Apple, without much success (I guess the customer service doesn’t deal with lost-and-found future technology). The story said that he even got a ticket. Then, weeks later, when nobody from Apple contacted him, he made a buck.

41 ysysarchitect { 04.20.10 at 8:38 am }

Oh Shut Up Wesley!

@FreeRange : You should try out as an actor, what with all that drama and drivel.

Where is Jean Luke Picard when you need him!

My bet is Apple will be mum and not say anything. Look at how they have said very little regarding the death of Flash, letting it go quietly.

That stolen iPhone actually looks like my older Mac in terms of style, maybe it was a prototype from a couple of years ago and simply allowed to be used. It doesn’t have a new look, and the buttons on the side actually look flimsy. The button-toggle on my new iPhone 3GSi with Turbo, Overhead CAM, fuel-injection, and custom AMG package looks and works a lot better that what the pictures are showing.

42 TheMacAdvocate { 04.20.10 at 9:24 am }

@wedgeredleader
It may be a departure from the 3G/3GS design, or it might be an interim design solely intended to get the layout of guts squared away before designing all the details of the shipping case.

43 TenThousandThings { 04.20.10 at 12:42 pm }

@ marian_

I don’t think it is possible to reconcile knowing the name of the person who lost it with the song and dance about trying to return it to Apple but not being able to. If you know the guy’s name and the fact he is an Apple employee, that should be enough to contact him.

44 Raymond { 04.20.10 at 2:33 pm }

Apple should do a commercial for Mobile Me with Gray Powell to attest that remote wipe really works. However I think Mr Jobs might not see the funny side of that.

45 Rob. Just Rob. { 04.20.10 at 4:09 pm }

Maybe this is part of a controlled publicity campaign on Apple’s part, and maybe it’s not. Field trials are a necessary evil of preparing a cell phone for production. It gets more people hammering on the UI, the phone hardware, and the underlying software for less-obvious and less frequently occurring bugs. It tests the phones in real-world cellular network environments, where the phone has to deal with interference from other phones on the same network and channel, multipath interference from buildings, wide variations in the base station hardware and software it needs to communicate with (hand-off issues, in particular), the list goes on and on.

From personal experience from my time in a development group of another cell phone manufacturer’s, I can state that phones have been, and most likely will continue to be accidentally lost and misplaced by hardware engineers, software engineers, and even company VIPs, only to show up on eBay days or weeks later. It’s happened to all the cell phone manufacturers at one point or another, since it only takes a moment of inattention on the part of just one user. Apple may (and I stress *may* — I’m just as familiar with Apple’s product reveals as the rest of you) just be the latest victim of such bad luck. It happens.

46 Rob. Just Rob. { 04.20.10 at 4:53 pm }

And on the subject of what can be learned from a bricked phone, just look at any TechInsights teardown. To have such information on a competitor’s product prior to it shipping is almost priceless competitive intelligence. Illegal under most lost property and trade secret laws, yes — but there are substantial benefits to any company willing to run the risk of being caught, which is why those laws were enacted in the first place. Just the knowledge of which vendors supplied parts can be used to leverage price concessions from them or their competitors.

47 PhilipWing { 04.20.10 at 6:03 pm }

A funny possibility – Gizmodo could have bought an early prototype of the *original* iPhone. When I was at Apple, I used a PowerBook G3 as my portable system, even attempting to get some work done at PacBell Park (Lost an hour’s work when waking from sleep failed). Design doesn’t seem to go with the rest of the line up, so it could be a concept test case, too. Picked up one of Timbuk2′s at their warehouse sale recently, an Out of Whack-style bag with a cross-chest Messenger strap.

48 x23 { 04.20.10 at 8:34 pm }

i thought i read that the MobileMe remote wiping doesn’t work currently in iPhone OS 4.0.

meaning … wait for it… the phone was probably actually wiped with the very same Microsoft remote wipe technology you claim doesn’t work.

Exchange remote wipe works fine on my iPhone without any issues (the one time i tried it out). i don’t even have a Microsoft Exchange server.

[The iPhone 4 beta 2 release is noted to be missing functional support for MobileMe (but certainly not because it can't work; it has just been disabled temporarily). The prototype was not running this developer beta build, obviously.

But more importantly, there is no alternative "Microsoft technology" that Apple had to use. Both Exchange/WiMo and MobileMe/iPhone remote wipe features blank phones the same way: by sending the phone a message telling it to wipe itself. Once you realize this, you'll get why "Exchange wipe" isn't somehow different that wiping from MobileMe (or Apple's other tools). It's the phone that wipes itself once it gets an authorized request to do so.

That's also why a phone needs to be connected to a secure account of some kind in order for remote wipe to function (because you wouldn't want some malicious hacker to be able to send your phone a self destruct signal).

The reason Apple's iPhone wipe worked immediately and Microsoft's didn't (causing panic) was either because a) the WiMo prototype stolen last year didn't wipe itself correctly or b) Microsoft people didn't immediately realize they needed to or could wipe it.

There is no Exchange vs MobileMe issue as you imagine because wipe doesn't work in the way you were thinking. - Dan ]

49 gctwnl { 04.21.10 at 12:13 am }

While WinMo in all its incarnations, Microsoft vaporware and bungling is all very funny to read about the way you wirte it, it does start to feel a bit like kicking someone who is down and out already. Stop it, Dan! You’re making me feel sorry for (and sympathetic towards) Microsoft…

50 Gizmodo’s iPhone 4 story, as painted by PC World and IDG’s Apple haters — RoughlyDrafted Magazine { 04.21.10 at 12:47 pm }

[...] The Tales of Two Top Secret Stolen Smartphone Prototypes What conspiracy nutters think happened The other, equally absurd line of nonsense emanating from the dripping faucet of tech media outlets comes via Robert X Cringely. No, not Mark Stephens, the former Cringely who went on to write silly things for PBS. This is the anonymous, trademarked columnist brand name InfoWorld publishes because it thinks somebody out there is interested in reading a column written by a variety of people pretending to be as nutty as Stephens once was in the employ of IDG. [...]

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