iPhone 4G (aka iPhone 4GS, aka iPhone HD) Real or Fake? – Tech Tuesday #36

Apple iPhone 4G

So how would you like to be fresh out of college, get a dream job for a company you love, get included in a project testing out a prototype upgrade to one of their uber-p0pular devices, then accidentally allow it fall into the hands of the press well before it was scheduled to be announced? Gizmodo released the scoop on this just a few days ago. The story goes like this…

Last month Gary Powell, an Apple engineer, took the latest prototype for the iPhone out for a test drive. It was his birthday, so he was out at a bar getting blitzed with his friends. He had even pulled out the prototype, cleverly disguised as a plain old 3GS model, and tweeted about what a good time he was having. At some point he left the bar but forgot his iPhone on the barstool. Flame if you want, but we’ve all been there.

The iPhone was found by an individual who was left un-named. The person said he tried to find the owner the next day but the phone had been remotely wiped (which ironically may have also prevented the owner from tracking him down via MobileMe. He did mention that he previously flipped through the apps and found that the Facebook app opened up to Gary Powell’s home page. He claims he attempted to contact Apple but was effectively ignored. An Apple rep who overheard the call said the person couldn’t provide any pics of the device so they thought it was either a hoax or just an imitation device. Again, flame if you want, but would you really believe it if someone told you they just found a prototype iPhone?

So 3 weeks pass. After numerous failed attempts to contact Apple, and having nothing better to do with a bricked iPhone, the guy decided to try and cash in on his ordeal. Enter Gizmodo. After seeing the device for themselves, they were convinced that it was the real deal and gave the guy a whopping $5000 for the device. The folks at Giz spent about a week verifying facts and are very confident the device was indeed the next iPhone.

So far everything seemed shady at best. Pics and video of the device looked real enough, but everything was plausibly deniable without a working OS. Not content to let Gizmodo have all the glory, Engadget posted pics of the iPad leaked from an Apple test lab and pointed out the partial pic of a device that looks conspicuously like the one in question. Convincing, right? No? How about this: Yesterday Gizmodo received a letter from Apple’s Legal department stating that Gizmodo had their device and they wanted it back. Now Apple has arguably admitted ownership of a device that previously had dubious origins. Still not convinced? Last thing I’ve got for ya are some pics posted up on a mac forum showing the device disassembled.

Here are some of the highlights Gizmodo’s hands-on review:

  • The back is made of glass and no longer curved but flat, with the Apple logo and lettering in metallic silver.
  • The sides are also flat and metallic silver.
  • There is now a camera on front and a flash added to the larger camera on the back.
  • There is a mic on top and on bottom (assuming one is for noise cancellation).
  • There are 2 volume buttons on the side.
  • The SIM slot is now a micro-SIM slot (same as the iPad) on the side.
  • The height, width and depth are approximately the same (they say the new device is slightly smaller, but the difference looked slight from the pics).
  • The headphone port, connection dock, power and home buttons also look the same.
  • Since it was bricked, no info was available on the OS or interface.

So at the end of the day the question remains… was this prototype just accidentally lost, or was it part of some elaborate ad campaign to hype the iPhone to even higher levels? I’m personally more partial to the latter. As much as Giz wants to think it got Apple’s number this time around, the odds of this device just being handed to them on a silver platter seem pretty astronomical. As far as ad campaigns go, this one went viral pretty quick. Despite being a Gizmodo exclusive, it was still covered on all the major tech and mac blogs within hours. What do you guys think? Was this an elaborate viral marketing campaign, or really just a case of human error?

The Lost iPhone 4G Saga:
Gizmodo – How Apple Lost the Next iPhone
Gizmodo – This Is Apple’s Next iPhone
Gizmodo – A Letter: Apple Wants Its Secret iPhone Back
Gizmodo – Why Apple Couldn’t Get the Lost iPhone Back

Related articles:
Gizmodo – This Is Apple’s Next iPhone
Gizmodo – Apple Didn’t Leak the iPhone—and Why That Matters
Engadget – iPhone 4G: is this it?
Engadget – iPhone 4G: proof
Engadget – Apple’s 4th-generation iPhone revealed


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