Apple Reportedly Loses Another iPhone Prototype

Oh Nooooeeees! I've Been Burgled!Apple reportedly lost another iPhone prototype, according to an exclusive report from CNet. Citing unnamed sources “familiar with the investigation,” the media outlet said that an iPhone prototype “went missing” in a tequila lounge called Cava 22 in San Francisco’s Mission district. Details are sketchy, but the device may have looked like an iPhone 4 and it may have been sold on Craigslist for US$200.

Sources said that Apple traced the device to a two-floor, single-family home in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood, and that San Francisco police and Apple investigators visited the home, spoke with an individual who acknowledged being at Cava 22 on the night in question, but then denied any knowledge of the iPhone.

Police were given permission to search the residence, but found nothing, and the man continued to deny any knowledge of the device when Apple’s on-hand investigators offered money for the device with “no questions asked.”

If this sounds vaguely familiar, the story shares themes with an incident in 2010 where an iPhone prototype disappeared (or was lost or was stolen) from a bar in Redwood City, CA. The device was sold to Gizmodo, which published a tear-down. Apple pressed charges and Gizmodo editor Jason Chen’s home was searched and his computers were seized, though charges and even the search warrant used in the seizure were eventually withdrawn.

This tale lacks the added drama of that case, but it does serve to illustrate the difficulties involved with testing a high profile mobile phone when even last year’s model is still highly valued. Perhaps rather than disguising them as last year’s iPhone, Apple could start disguising them as a Motorola Xoom, or maybe a BlackBerry PlayBook? That would be one way to lower the interest of would-be thieves.