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“For the sake of the person who dropped it, I hope this is a devious marketing scheme.”
——a Silcon Valley forecaster
GUY WALKS INTO A BAR...AND LEAVES WITHOUT HIS iPHONE 4G
Discovery of the Top-Secret Prototype a
Real-Life Nightmare for the Secretive Apple

Gizmodo has posted photos and details about what it says is the iPhone 4G, after parent company Gawker reportedly purchased the top-secret device from someone who claims to have found it on the floor of a Redwood City beer garden for $5,000. For Apple, which is historically the most secretive of companies, this had to be a horrific occurrence.

Gawker’s sites have had a longstanding practice of paying for scoops, and the windfall was tangible. Traffic spiked on Monday, and at midday more than 1 million visitors stopped by the site in one hour to see pictures of the coveted gadget, the N.Y. Times noted.

When the news first hit the web, some greeted it with skepticism. But this is not a hoax. A person with knowledge of Apple’s hardware plans who was not authorized to speak on behalf of the company confirmed to the Times that it was real.

“It is very stunning,” Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, who has been following Apple for nearly three decades, told the TimesMiguel Helft and Nick Bilton. “Apple has such tight control on new products, and they are kept under wraps diligently and religiously until the day of their release. If it is true, it is really a first.”

So what new features can be found in this puppy? To find out, Gizmodo dissembled the 4G prototype, discovering a front-facing video chat camera, improved still camera with flash, micro-SIM card, improved display, a possible secondary mic for noise cancellation, new metallic buttons for volume, power and mute, and a 16% bigger battery.

Style-wise, the housing is flatter and squarer than earlier models. The volume and power buttons are stylistically different, and the back of the phone appears to be a ceramic glass, which would enable better reception. That would address a persistent problem that has plagued the iPhone since its inception three years ago., the Times reporters point out.

Some actually wondered whether the phone was planted by Apple’s publicity machine.

“For the sake of the person who dropped it, I hope this is a devious marketing scheme,” said—Paul Saffo, a veteran Silicon Valley forecaster, said in a separate phone interview with the Times. “But I think it is unlikely. There is no one else on the planet whose shoes I would less like to be in it at the moment.”

By late in the day, reports began to surface on the Internet that Steve Jobs had personally called Gizmodo to get the device back. Gawker CEO Nick Denton declined to comment, saying any conversation between Jobs and Gizmodo would most likely have been off the record.

“We haven’t had any formal communication with Apple,” he said. Brian Lam, the editor in chief of Gizmodo, said his publication would “probably” return the device to Apple.

Late Monday night, Gizmodo said that it received a letter from Apple SVP/General Counsel Bruce Sewell requesting the return of the phone. "It has come to our attention that Gizmodo is currently in possession of a device that belongs to Apple," Sewell wrote in a letter that Gizmodo published. "This letter constitutes a formal request that your return the device to Apple," the letter said.

Beyond that, Apple declined to comment.

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