On Apple’s Lost 4G iPhone

April 20, 2010

The new case design looks odd at first, but makes sense: the flat metal sides resemble the MacBook Pros and most obviously: the iPad. If the back material improves reception, awesome. Particularly welcome are the front-facing camera and flash for the back camera. The elements I’m not keen on are the volume controls (like the current rocker button) and the removeable battery option, which adds some seams to the case.

The whole lost iPhone loss / Gizmodo buying it situation: Supposedly the iPhone’s owner was revealed by his Facebook page on the phone itself. Seems the finder could have contacted him directly. Instead, the finder began shopping the device around to various gadget blogs for $10,000. And the story about trying to return it to Apple and getting nowhere sounds like total bull. The phone was found in Redwood City; just drive to Apple headquarters and drop it off. I’m curious what will happen to this “as-yet-unamed person” – anonymous for a reason.

That said, Apple being paranoid about leaks, I’m sure they were more or less prepared for this contingency. They remote-wiped the phones software. I wouldn’t be surprised if the hardware itself isn’t the final design, or was intentionally crippled or altered in case of a leak just like this or to trace a leak if it occurred. Particularly telling: Apple hasn’t yet demanded a take-down of any photos. Most likely, this phone is merely one prototype among many.

Stranger theory: this entire situation was an intentional leak to build buzz, or test reaction to this particular case design. Don’t think so – losing phones and hoping harmless people pick them up isn’t Apple’s style at all. To build buzz, they could merely invite Stephen Fry back to the Wonka Factory.

Oh, and of course, Hitler has a few things to say about this.

Update: More info from Gizmodo, weakly trying to explain why the finder didn’t return the phone to Apple. Still no answers why the finder didn’t just drive to Apple headquarters, put the phone in an envelope marked “Steve Jobs” and be done with it.


  1. JC says:

    The case is most certainly not a final design. I like the idea of the flat back, and the new ceramic/glass material it’s supposed to be made of. But the buttons on the side are very un-Apple. And I’d be willing to bet my left arm that Apple has no intention of releasing a phone with a removable battery.

    My guess is that the real iPhone HD/4th Gen will look at least a little different from this prototype.

    The story of the phone’s loss/release/sale to Gizmodo is more than fishy. Even if the story were true exactly as Gizmodo has told it, they are still guilty of a few crimes, and more importantly, a severe breach of ethics. Apple has every right to sue Gizmodo into the ground and plant salt in the earth where its headquarters stands.

    Personally, I liked Andy Ihnatko’s take on the situation. He’s absolutely right that at the end of the day, this story didn’t benefit readers in the least. We only learned mostly what we already knew, based on rumors that had been floating around for a few months. And in the end, the career of at least one Apple employee is ruined. The fact that the people at Gizmodo not only didn’t consider that before leaking this story, but are obviously still not remorseful about it is reprehensible. I’ve never been a fan of Gizmodo, anyway, but after this, I have no intention of ever visiting that site intentionally again.

    Some people don’t see this as a big deal, but they don’t understand how Apple operates. For one, now Apple has no choice but to release a phone that has at least the features shown to be in this prototype. And they have to do it soon. They can’t remove the front-facing camera at the last minute, for instance, or else people will be severely disappointed. They can’t delay the launch into the Fall, if they wanted to for other reasons. That kind of loss of control over the destiny of a flagship product is the sort of thing that drives Steve Jobs to fire people in elevators.

    Apple also loses the big buzz that would have been generated over the next six to eight weeks of speculation about this device. Some think that’s unimportant, but Apple lives or dies by its free press buzz. That well-oiled marketing machine is a marvel to behold, and it generates real results for Apple. This will directly effect Apple’s stock price, at least in the short term.

    Also, competitors now have an even better idea than they did before of what they are up against, so they can get a head start on their photocopiers. I wouldn’t worry about this too much, though. Microsoft is just catching up to the 2007 iPhone now. A couple months head start on the HD isn’t going to help them much.

    Luckily, Apple was able to remote-wipe this phone, so we know relatively little about how the iChat software will work, for instance. So Apple can still release some surprises on the announcement day. But there’s no doubt that the WWDC keynote will have a little less impact than it was going to have. And that, I believe, constitutes real loss for Apple’s bottom line. Which is grounds for a major lawsuit, I would think. People think Apple won’t risk the bad PR, but they’ve done it before. And this time, arguably, they will come out fine in the court of public opinion. Especially if Gizmodo representatives keep yapping away on Twitter about how proud they are of what they’ve done.

  2. Yeah, Gizmodo has more explaining to do. After your comment, am now wondering why they saw it okay to expose the name of the Apple employee (and even publish pictures of the poor guy) but are with holding info about the finder.

    Good point about some of the hardware specs (front-facing camera, flash, and removeable battery) now effectively etched in stone. That removeable battery aspect could be a big negative – I also don’t think an iPhone needs it, but now,if the 4G is released without one, some whiners will point to this prototype and accuse Apple of withholding features.

    Yeah, this is bad Apple PR, but could have been much worse – would have been insanely crazy if it ended up in the hands of a tech competitor.