Apple legal wants

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Pretty much confirming what pretty much everyone has suspected since at least Monday, if not late Sunday, Apple has formally and officially asked Gizmodo for that iPhone 4G/iPhone HD back. That means it's Apple property, and probably something close to what we'll see when Steve Jobs holds it up on the WWDC stage in June.

TiPb's already posted on the iPhone G4 design and we'll be following up with more on both the device itself, and the iPhone OS 4 software that will be running it.

Have something to say about this story? Share your comments below! Need help with something else? Submit your question!

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Apple legal wants

61 Comments

If it is the real thing, why did they officially ask for it back? I mean this only confirms that there's something about it, if it wasn't the real thing from the first place

Sweet, hope the prototype is close to the finished product design-wise. I really like the new look

Interesting. One has to wonder if someone really "accidently" left it somewhere, only to be found by someone with a keen eye for new technology from apple? I'm not a conspiracy nut, but what better way to build hype for a new device than to leak it?

I find it funny that Gizmodo is claiming innocence when they know they bought something that wasn't theirs.

if it was accidentally left , i think they would have removed all sensitive data on it so Gizmodo couldn't broadcast the Engineers name all over the internet.

There still COULD be some cosmetic differences between this and the final shipping phone.
It is Apple property, they would want it back even it were ensconced in a bloody 1999 'toilet seat' iBook chassis in all its blueberry rubberyness. It is theirs.
I still think Gizmodo crossed some ethical lines.

That phone was so planted. With all these spec-monster HTC devices coming out in the next month or two, Apple needed to give people a reason to wait until the end of June. As if they let anyone leave for the weekend with a top secret prototype in their pockets. Come on.

I believe this was a hoax. They wanted people to see that this phone is gonna be very much an upgrade. Apple really wants you to think twice before you buy a new phone right now. Smart marketing; think different. lol

For all you who are hating on Gizmodo right now, did you go to their site when you saw they had better pics and videos? Or did your superior sense of right and wrong stop you? They're a tech news and rumors blog. Of course they're going to buy the thing and post everything they can. It attracts viewers to their site.

Id love to see again all Those " it's fake and ugly" comments now. Ethic sense it's different to everybody lol u can't sue on that base. Gizmondo are as guilty as all who whatched u little hipocrits

@Desmond
I agree ace. The story of how this turned up doesn't ring true. Finding it in a bar, yea, right. More likey it was a marketing ploy after so many people were so dissapointed with the advancements on the 3gs. They have played this too perfect for it not to be a set up.
If this where a legal matter gizmodo would not be being asked for the device back formaly. More likely they would find themselves in court.
In my opinion anyway.

The more that gets posted by Giz, the more this all smells of bll**! None of this "timeline" makes any sense...
Great way to keep the public talking about the iPhone though!

In this day and age, where Apple keeps everything in super secret rooms under black cloaked cloth when working with a prototype, I find it difficult that the phone was found in a bar that someone had accidently left there. Even iPad, which was supplied to the NY Times was chained to some immovable object.
I don't think Apple let's anyone make these kinds of mistakes. It is a great PR stunt and yes, the whole community is buzzed with the new phone. I have a feeling that they will pull out something which is close to this internally, but will have a different outer shell. They just wanted to get the specs out to everyone so people can wait and make their purchases in June than going out and buying a competitor's phone today.

Apple doesn't want people talking iphone. They want em talking iPad..especially the 3G one now. Now if this had happened in mid May...then all those planned leak theories might make more sense.

I'm still not convinced about the whole thing either, but it is still possible.
At this stage Apple must have an almost finished phone if it is to be announced and released in just 2 months time. If that is the case they will be in field trials and it would not be unusual for engineers to use the test phones as their own, but with a disguise.
Also if you read all the Gizmodo articles, one of their justifications for naming the engineer is that Apple would know who it was anyway and Gizmodo was trying to explain that it was an innocent mistake and not something more devious.
Still smells of a clever marketing ploy…

I tend to agree that Apple does not make mistakes like this. The comment about timing with respect to the iPad launch is interesting. If true, it suggests Apple has figured out that the iPhone and iPad markets are different and do not cannibalize each other, which I believe is true.

Well the iPad can't possibly replace the iPhone as it's not a phone and it doesn't fit in your pocket and people buying iPads primarily want it for the larger screen so there is little overlap in my view.
In any case 2 things are different between the iPad and iPhone releases:
1) The iPad was an entirely new product for Apple. Hype was running high and they knew competitors would jump on the bandwagon if the iPad was successful so they didn't want competitors to get the lead on them, hence the super security. The next iPhone on the other hand looks like it is just going to be a spec/feature bump (albeit a welcome one) so everyone knows roughly what to expect and the challenge for Apple here is to stop everyone jumping ship and getting an Android phone or whatever and keep them wanting the next iPhone.
2) Apple released the WIFI only iPad first, which wouldn't really need field testing as most situations could be replicated in the lab (although that might explain why they missed some router incompatibilities). I imagine the last 2 weeks have given engineers the chance to take out 3G iPads for field testing disguised as WiFi iPads since it wouldn't look very different to what other consumers already have. Any cellular network device is going to require extensive field testing.

Anyone could have lost the phone. The fact that the screen was unlocked and the owner's name easy to find, it was not intentional. If Apple "planted" the phone, they would not have had employee information on it for viewing!!!
Gizmodo on the other hand should not have published the employee name. That is so TMZish. They got the phone, who cares who the employee was!

I think Gizmodo can be held liable for at least buying stolen merchandise - that is to say, Apple can make this case. It'll be interesting to see if Apple persues any legal recourse, but I'm sure they probably just want to bury this before it gets made into an even bigger story. And I feel sorry for the chap that lost this phone as I'm sure Steve Jobs has waterboarded him several times by now.

one thing i want to know is that IF this prototype is 100% real i'm assuming the SIM card slot indicates that AT&T will keep the exclusivity or another provider that uses SIM cards.

With the latest iPhone 4G hoohah, at least we know that the "brick your iPhone" feature from MobileMe really works!

I think this is Apple's way of testing hardware to get that feedback before they release it.

Remember that the HTC Evo launches the week prior to the speculated iPhone G4 date. How do you curb sales of people that are upset with the 3GS? Simple, give them a taste...

I agree with some of the commenters, this was a planned leak. Apple jump through hoops to keep their hardware a secret until the big reveal. According to Gizmodo, the engineer who "lost" the phone is still working at Apple and the phone has been missing for a month now. You would think Jobs would be p'oed and feed him to the sharks with freakin laser beams on their heads.

Wow, it amazes me that so many are fooled by this, this was a publicity stunt. The IPAD hoopla died out very fast, Apple needed to do this. Gizmodo was in on the stunt.

Wouldn't apple have expected Giz to ship it immediately back to them not ask where they can pick it up? Also if this were real which I think it may be as a test unit-I stand my comments yesterday re:the terrible terrible design and the chances that it's going to look like something from Total recall...remote wipe using MobileMe?

There's only one thing for sure about this leak... we will be talking about it until June.
That's I'm 99.99% sure this was planted. No matter what happens in June, we've will have been talking about it for 6-8 weeks and the hype will be out of control, no matter if it's real or if it's fake. We'll never be 100% certain if it was planned unless you work for the innermost circle at Apple, and we'll only be 100% certain of the design when Steve shows it to us.

I like all the hoopla over this "iphone".
Surely people didn't think Apple was immune to this kinda stuff.
It was bound to happen.
There is something fishy about this leak though. According to a foxnews article, the person who found it "tried unsuccessfully to return it to Apple. Then he turned it over to Gizmodo".
How does someone fail at returning something? Yet an iPhone prototype?
Could it possibly been a planted leak? Yes.

I'm assuming in my comment that the iPhone found in the bar is a real working Apple prototype, and that the report that it was running iPhone OS 4.0 when first found is accurate.
What I'm wondering is why this prototype was in active use -- to test a new A4 chipset for the iPhone and the iPhone OS 4.0 is my guess. I also wonder how many were made, and who within the company was given the prototypes and under what restrictions. It's plausible that prototypes with the A4 chipset were constructed to test battery life, front facing camera, and wireless reception, for instance. I would assume that a relatively low level employee would not be officially able to take a prototype outside the Apple corporate campus, since no one has ever spotted a working Apple prototype or device prior to release before.
Most prototypes look terrible, and the fact that this one didn't, combined with the closeness to the likely iPhone release date (June) makes it easy to believe that it is the model intended for wide release.
As far as the question of whether this was a planned leak -- I think the idea is highly dubious. The only thing going in its favor is that it's not the worst possible thing that could happen if an Apple product were lost prior to release. What is going against the conspiracy theory is pretty much everything else. Which is more plausible? (1) some tech decides to break company policy and take a prototype to a bar to show to his friends or someone he wants to sleep with, then has a drink and forgets the device at the bar. (2) Or, that Apple has broken in every possible way from its usual pattern because Steve Jobs has decided that he wants to be a completely different person. I'm going with the "some guy gets drunk and forgets something at a bar" story.

As far as some of the commenters' statements go, like "Why did Apple write a letter" or "Apple can put Gizmodo in jail," it's obvious that you've read absolutely nothing that has been written about what happened.

What really screams leak is the fact that we don't even have good details of a device that a TECH BLOG got their hands on. Had this been a real deal leak, the FIRST thing Giz would've done is a full teardown, have the SOC x-rayed, find out how much RAM was actually in the device, showed us a pic of the micro sim, which probably would've had AT&T markings, and countless other things, but it's just terrible that Gizmodo is taking the low route here creating this elaborate story etc...
But hey if this os what it takes to edge out the competition, then so be it.

I think this is a total fake. I can't see Apple putting philips head screws on their device...for starters. Also, the design is not something Apple would do. This design is about 10 steps backwards. I found this video on youtube, is this real: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHiMG7z9ms&feature=playerembedded

@Stefano, have you ever seen an actual iPhone? I'm looking at my 3G right now and what do you know, two little philips head screws on the bottom, just like the prototype.

What I have taken from this is people are full of crap. You're telling me, people of virtue and right, if you found this iPhone, you wouldn't try to profit from this? Who are you crappin'? After trying to play with it, you wouldn't be trying to contact a R&D department for Motorola, Samsung, HTC, etc? I'm sure they would have paid handsomely for it and kept their mouth shut. I understand that you have to test prototypes to see how they react in the real world, but this poor kid should have left the prototype at work or home knowing he was going to get liquored up. He may be the brightest bulb when it comes to programming and engineering, but he isn't the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to common sense.

Apple officially leaked the new iPhone. No way that an Apple employee "accidentally" lost her iPhone!

I'm just assuming that people who think this was a deliberate leak have (1) never worked in a company; (2) never been drunk; (3) never been to a bar; (4) never studied conspiracy theories.

@Dennis
Of course not. They're kids. What do you expect?
Seriously, this "it's a conspiracy by mastermind, Steve Jobs!" is grasping for straws here. Like it or not, this is your new Iphone. Stop bitching and whining and calling everyone a liar because you aren't getting what you want. I think this new model looks pretty sweet. The original body style was old and outdated, so why not try something else? Regardless of how much you hate on it, come June, you all will buy it so why cry about it now?
The sad thing is, the guy probably lost his job. Is Apple so cruel that they'll can somebody just to hype people?
Come June, this is roughly what you'll all be getting. Can it and enjoy your new Iphone.

Still not buying it (The story, not the phone) - Giz opened it up and yet they told us NOTHING about processor, etc. This whole thing just stinks! We will never know, but i for one am convinced this was just publicity and deception...
Why didn't Apple squash the story immidiately?
Why didn't they demand the phone back immidiately?
Apples lawyers are not going to go to Giz and say, O.K., you want a letter, here it is, May we please have our stolen, prototype, Nextgen, earth shattering, iPhone back now? Pretty please?
Bull!!!!!!!
Everything about this just seems wrong and TOTALLY out of charicter for Jobs and Apple...
Just my .02!

This is a strange story. According to UAS Today the phone was left in a bar, some one found it, and tried to return it to Apple. They did not believe it. So somehow Giz paid $5,000.00 for it. Apple knew it was lost, and remote erased the phone. Giz gave the phone back. They say truth is stranger than fiction. Who knows. Guess we will see around July or so.

SteveC, have you read the pieces over at Gizmodo? They have gleaned quite a bit of information about this new iphone. Including the fact there is a smaller but higher resolution screen, flash, larger battery, mirco-sim card, and a secondary mic.
The reason why they couldn't find out what the processor is, was due to the fact the board was encased in metal. It's appears Apple didn't want anyone looking into that board.

@Doug: Yes, believe me, I have read it all! You have to admit that the way this was handled by Apple is NOT what we have grown to expect from them given what Giz had done.