Watching Apple’s every move is a spectator sport. And the spectators have been agog this week over reports that tech blog Gizmodo was in possession of a lost prototype presumed to be the next generation iPhone.
Apple lent credence to the reports when Apple Senior Vice President and General Counsel Bruce Sewell sent a letter to Gizmodo Editorial Director Brian Lam formally requesting the return “of a device that belongs to Apple.”
Reports circulating online say that Steve Jobs himself called Gizmodo asking for the phone back. Apple would not comment for this story. Gizmodo returned the phone to Apple Monday night.
Gizmodo Editor Jason Chen, who examined the prototype and took it apart said that “what I saw inside is as final as you can get without putting actual serial numbers on it. But Apple is known for doing a couple of final prototypes…and Jobs can change his mind at the last minute. Even if this isn’t the final one it’s darn close to what you’re going to see.”
Tech analyst Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies concurs: “It’s mostly likely that was truly a next generation iPhone. Whether it’s the final engineering version is a question. I don’t know now if the form and function changes.”
If Apple sticks to the timeline established with earlier models, a new iPhone would be shown off in June or July.
The prototype that was in Gizmodo’s possession apparently differs from existing iPhones in several key ways, both feature-wise and cosmetically. It includes a front-facing video chat camera, an improved regular back camera, a camera flash, a better display, a micro-SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card, and more. It will also no doubt run the previously announced iPhone version 4.0 software, which among other new features will permit you to run multiple apps at once.
The lost phone saga began the night of March 18, according to Gizmodo, when an Apple software engineered identified by Gizmodo as Gray Powell inadvertently abandoned the device on a bar stool in a Silicon Valley beer hall. Another patron ended up with the device and apparently tried to return it to Apple. Gizmodo says no one there took him seriously. But Apple knew the device was missing and by the next day had remotely wiped its data.
The phone eventually ended up at Gizmodo, which paid $5,000 to the person who found it, in Chen’s words “to do the due diligence to make sure it was real.”
Bajarin believes Apple will change the rules about any unannounced prototypes leaving the building.
Here is what we learned from the booboo…? Marketing plan?
• Front-facing video chat camera
• Improved regular back-camera (the lens is quite noticeably larger than the iPhone 3GS)
• Camera flash
• Micro-SIM instead of standard SIM (like the iPad)
• Improved display. It’s unclear if it’s the 960×640 display thrown around before—it certainly looks like it, with the “Connect to iTunes” screen displaying much higher resolution than on a 3GS.
• What looks to be a secondary mic for noise cancellation, at the top, next to the headphone jack
• Split buttons for volume
• Power, mute, and volume buttons are all metallic
• The back is entirely flat, made of either glass (more likely) or ceramic or shiny plastic in order for the cell signal to poke through. Tapping on the back makes a more hollow and higher pitched sound compared to tapping on the glass on the front/screen, but that could just be the orientation of components inside making for a different sound
• An aluminum border going completely around the outside
• Slightly smaller screen than the 3GS (but seemingly higher resolution)
• Everything is more squared off
• 3 grams heavier
• 16% Larger battery
• Internals components are shrunken, miniaturized and reduced to make room for the larger battery