Another iPhone prototype gets left in a bar, disappears

by Phil Hornshaw

We might be looking at an impending info leak on par with the massive info dump that came just before the release of the iPhone 4 last year – Apple employees have apparently misplaced another prototype iPhone in a bar.

According to a story from CNET, Apple has apparently reported the loss of the “priceless” device, which was left behind at a bar called Cava 22 in San Francisco, according to an anonymous source. Apple supposedly traced the phone electronically to a home in the San Francisco neighborhood of Bernal Heights, and police and Apple investigators visited the house.

The story reports that the investigators spoke with “a man in his twenties who acknowledged being at Cava 22 on the night the device went missing.” But he claimed to have no knowledge of the missing device, and even permitted police to search his home, which turned up zilch as well. The Apple employees reportedly offered the man money for the return of the phone, with no questions asked, but the man continued to deny any knowledge of it, CNET reports.

What’s bizarre about the entire incident is that this exact scenario played out last year as well, when an Apple engineer left a prototype iPhone 4 behind in a bar and it was found by another patron. That patron attempted to return the phone to its owner, and then to Apple directly, but apparently his calls were never returned. Then, with the help of a friend, the man orchestrated a sale of the device to tech blog Gizmodo for $5,000 in cash.

The iPhone sellers, Brian Hogan and Sage Wallower, have been arraigned on misdemeanors: Hogan for the appropriation of lost property, Wallower for the appropriation of lost property and the possession of stolen property. Hogan faces up to a $1,000 and a year in county jail, and Wallower faces the same, plus one year in county jail for the possession misdemeanor. But charges against Gizmodo were dropped last week.

It seems possible that if the iPhone prototype is out in the world and the person who has it realizes what they have, we could see a similar situation play out all over again. Tech blogs like Gizmodo will likely be willing to purchase the prototype even at the risk of charges from the cops and anger from Apple, and the precedent set by last year’s case may even bolster their willingness to try it. Information about Apple products ahead of their announcement is still worth a boatload in website hits. We’ll have to wait and see if anything comes of the loss – you can bet that Apple is doing the same, but with a lot more worry.