Apple iPhone 4G Reportedly Sighted in Vietnam

Apple may have another leak on its hands, as a Vietnamese Website has leaked images and video of a purported iPhone 4G. The mobile device shown bears a marked resemblance to the one lost in a California bar and dissected by tech blog Gizmodo in April. This calls into question whether Apple's vaunted product security is really airtight. The supposed next-generation iPhone, as dissected by Gizmodo, includes a front-facing video chat camera, a back camera with flash, support for Micro-SIM, a higher-resolution display and a new button configuration.

Another alleged iPhone prototype has cropped up, this time in Vietnam, raising new questions about Apple's security and marketing strategies less than a month after a similar device was discovered in a California bar and ended up getting scrutinized by tech blog Gizmodo.

Vietnamese online forum Taoviet posted images and video of the device's outer shell and inner processor that found their way onto Apple-centric Websites and blogs such as Apple Insider May 12. Taoviet itself seems to be out of commission; its homepage now displays a message in Vietnamese that translates roughly as, "Website is being maintained. Please visit again in a moment. Thanks."

Based on the images distributed to other sites, though, the Taoviet iPhone prototype features fewer visible screws along the chassis than the unit dissected by Gizmodo, suggesting a device closer to actual production. Although it may be an illusion of Gizmodo's and Taoviet's respective shooting conditions, the Vietnamese prototype also appears somewhat more refined and finished in its build. Images of the internal circuitry suggest the presence of an A4 processor.

Gizmodo's parent company, Gawker Media, supposedly paid a source $5,000 for the earlier-discovered device-quickly dubbed "iPhone 4G" by the media-which was reportedly misplaced in a German beer garden north of San Jose, Calif., by an Apple software engineer celebrating his birthday. Although the blog later returned the device to Apple, police raided the California home of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen on April 23, seizing several computers. The warrant, issued by the Superior Court of San Mateo, authorized a search for any digital property associated with the prototype iPhone.

The question of the hour, of course, is how another next-generation iPhone prototype managed to slip out of Apple's secretive development labs. Soon after Gizmodo first reported that it had taken possession of an iPhone prototype, the blogosphere erupted with allegations that either the tech blog was a willing participant in an Apple marketing scheme, displaying a "leaked" device in order to build buzz, or Apple had somehow managed to plant a device for the Website's unwitting editors to examine, also as part of a viral marketing scheme.

"The only way the iPhone 4 was a controlled leak is if Apple has completely upended its PR strategy, which is the envy of the entire business world," Gizmodo asserted April 20. "The only way it could even work, presuming it were true, would be the destruction of a decade of meticulously laid plans. It would be cashing in all the marketing chips for no clear gain."

According to Gizmodo, the device it broke down included a front-facing video chat camera, a back camera with flash, support for Micro-SIM, a higher-resolution display and a new button configuration; in addition, the blog said the device had a larger battery, miniaturized internal components and a backing made from a ceramic or plastic material, presumably for better reception of cell signals.

"Tapping on the back makes a more hollow and higher-pitched sound compared to tapping on the glass on the front/screen," Chen wrote in the teardown post, "but that could just be the orientation of components inside making for a different sound."

The Taoviet images suggest many of these details, including the different material of the backing, are also present in this newer purported prototype. If this device indeed represents another unauthorized leak, then Apple will likely respond as aggressively as it did to Gizmodo.