Apple iPhone 5 Prototype May Be Lost in Bar

Apple may have lost an iPhone prototype in a California bar, in a bizarre repeat of an incident from last year. Oops.

In a bizarre repeat of a similar incident last year, an Apple employee apparently lost an iPhone prototype in a Northern California bar, sparking a frenzied hunt by Apple investigators and San Francisco police.

"Apple electronically traced the phone to a two-floor, single-family home in San Francisco's Bernal Heights neighborhood," but failed to find the device, according to CNET.

CNET quoted an unnamed "source familiar with the investigation" in reporting the story.

In 2010, an Apple employee lost an iPhone 4 prototype at the Gourmet Haus Staudt beer garden in Redwood City, Calif. The device's discoverers promptly sold it to Gawker Media, parent company of tech blog Gizmodo, which dissected it in a lengthy and much-circulated posting.

California prosecutors later abandoned plans to file charges against Gizmodo, but the two men who sold the prototype weren't so lucky. The early leak had a negligible effect on sales of the iPhone 4, which remains a linchpin of Apple's smartphone line.

Several possibilities present themselves. Either another Apple employee genuinely lost an iPhone prototype in a bizarre-but-true repeat of 2010's incident. Or else this is a stunt by Apple to drum up publicity, a theory undermined when you consider how it runs counter to the company's usual love of image control. Or else there's been some sort of confused signal, and what's been lost isn't a new iPhone prototype at all.

Tech publications have generally focused on September or October as a possible launch date for the next iPhone, popularly dubbed "iPhone 5" by the media. AllThingsD, speaking to unnamed sources "with knowledge of the situation," is claiming the latter as the unveiling month.

Apple is currently undergoing a seismic transition with the resignation of longtime CEO Steve Jobs, who left the reins to former COO Tim Cook. At this point, analysts see the possible impact on Apple's short-term roadmap as minimal.

Rumors suggest the next iPhone will feature a larger screen and faster processor, along with an 8-megapixel camera and possibly a redesigned body. There's also a widespread theory that Apple intends to release a line of low-cost iPhones to complement its next-generation device, which in turn would allow Cupertino to combat the rising number of cheap Google Android smartphones on the market.

In any case, iPhone prototypes and bars obviously don't mix.

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