The so-called iPhone 4G prototype, reportedly lost at a bar in California and then dissected in a now-infamous post by tech blog Gizmodo, offers some hints as to Apple's thinking in realms such as video social networking. Meanwhile, a Daring Fireball post suggests that, based on the barcode on the device, the dissected unit could be very close to the final version of the next-generation iPhone. The Apple engineer who allegedly lost the device has been offered a free trip to Germany to drown his sorrows.
What lessons can be learned from Apple's supposed loss of an iPhone
prototype, besides, "Never let one of your software engineers get smashed
and accidentally leave a prototype on a bar stool?"
If the device reportedly found in a German beer garden north of San Jose,
Calif., and carefully dissected by tech
April 19, has the same hardware features as the final version
of the next-generation iPhone, then Apple is joining much of the rest of the
tech industry in seeing video conferencing and social networking as the future
for both consumers and business.
That's because the device contains not only a large camera on its back, but
also what Gizmodo described as a "front-facing video chat camera." To
at least one analyst, that can only mean one thing.
"We think Apple will spice up the [next] iPhone announcement with
services that leverage its front-facing video camera," Ezra Gottheil, an
analyst with Technology Business Research, wrote
in an April 21 research note.
"There is a market opportunity for a
network platform for video social networking, gaming and conferencing that
Apple could address with its distinctive software and design
Gottheil added, "By providing critical applications and a platform for
third-party development, Apple could create a compelling and very sticky
An emphasis on video would dovetail neatly with Apple's building of a
massive data center in Maiden, N.C. The sheer size of that facility,
reportedly encompassing 500,000 square feet, suggests that the company is
gearing up for an extremely data-intensive set of initiatives-such as streaming
video for large numbers of users.
Other reported features of what the media has taken to calling the
"iPhone 4G," including the higher-resolution display, smaller battery
and secondary mic for noise cancellation, all seem like the natural evolution
of the device. The use of a Micro-SIM could
be in the interest of design and space. On the software side of things, Apple's
upcoming iPhone OS 4 will include multitasking,
something that previous
versions of the device have lacked, and a way for Apple to better compete with
the multitasking-friendly Google Android operating system.
One question that lingers about the whole affair is how a top-secret device,
designed by a company that reportedly rivals the CIA
in security and paranoia, managed to end up on a beer-soaked barstool in the
first place. The incongruity of that event, of course, led many in the online
community to opine-loudly-that the whole "loss" was deliberately
staged by Apple in order to generate buzz months before the next iPhone's
That would be out of character for Apple, which has a reputation for
revealing devices only through carefully controlled events. One blogger with
connections at Apple wrote that the iPhone's escape into the wild was simply a
case of colossally bad luck and nothing more.
"Starting a few weeks ago, some number of iPhone engineers, who because
of the nature of their work were already familiar with the details of Apple's
next-generation iPhone, were authorized to begin using late preproduction units
outside of Apple's campus," wrote John Gruber, who runs the Apple-centric
"Strict provisos govern such units. They must remain in
cases designed to render them indistinguishable, at a glance, from an (encased)
iPhone 3G/3GS. Such units are not allowed to be demonstrated or revealed to
Gruber said he believes, based on the "N90_DVT_GE4X_0493" barcode
attached to the infamous unit, that Gizmodo dissected a version of the
smartphone very close to the finished product: "'DVT' stands for 'design
verification test,' an Apple production milestone," Gruber wrote in an
April 22 post. "The DVT milestone is very late in the game; based on this,
I now believe that this unit very closely, if not exactly, resembles what Apple
plans to release."
No word has leaked about what may happen to the Apple software engineer who
reportedly lost the device. However, Lufthansa is offering him a free business-class
ticket to Munich, according to an
open letter from the airline published on Gawker,
where presumably he can
drown his sorrows in more beer.