A popular website that focuses on consumer electronics appears to have got its hands on a legitimate prototype of the next Apple iPhone, which was said to be found in a California bar.
Enthusiast site Gizmodo got hold of the smartphone, disassembled the device and published a detailed blog entry saying it is "the real thing".
The unit was found in a bar in Redwood City, California, close to Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, California. The phone was in what appeared to be an iPhone 3GS case, perhaps as a disguise.
Some enthusiast sites earlier claimed the unit was an iPhone clone and Gizmodo said it was sceptical when it first saw the device. Writers at the site couldn't get the device running, but after a week of analysing components and features, Gizmodo concluded that the device is an iPhone 4G.
The authenticity of the handset appears to have been confirmed after Gizmodo published a letter from Bruce Sewell, senior vice president and general counsel at Apple, demanding the return of the handset.
"It has come to our attention that Gizmodo is currently in possession of a device that belongs to Apple. This letter constitutes a formal request that you return the device to Apple. Please let me know where to pick up the unit," said the letter.
In his reply to Apple, Brian Lam, editorial director at Gizmodo, said: "Happy to have you pick this thing up. Was burning a hole in our pockets. Just so you know, we didn't know this was stolen when we bought it. Now that we definitely know it's not some knock-off, and it really is Apple's, I'm happy to see it returned to its rightful owner."
The iPhone 4G is a nickname for the next version of the smartphone. Apple usually releases new iPhones in yearly increments, and the iPhone 3GS was announced in June last year.
During Gizmodo's testing, a Mac computer recognised the device as an iPhone, and the phone contains Apple-labelled components. While Gizmodo staff could not get the actual device running, the post about the phone said that the person who found it in the bar played with the iPhone 4.0 OS until it was remotely killed by Apple. Apple announced the iPhone OS 4.0 earlier this month.
If Gizmodo's findings are correct, the phone has many new hardware features, including a front-facing video camera and flash for the camera. The device is also thinner and sports a new, almost-flat design, with a plastic surface on the back. The device is 3 grams (0.1 ounces) heavier than the iPhone 3GS, but is also thinner, Gizmodo said. The iPhone 3GS weighs about 135 grams.
Gizmodo also said the device may include what could be a smaller, but higher-resolution, display. The device also has smaller components to incorporate a larger battery. Smaller components tend to be more power-efficient, and with a larger battery, the device would have improved battery life. The device also has separate volume buttons.
There are many expectations for the next generation of the iPhone. The Wall Street Journal last month reported that Apple is developing two new iPhones for launch this summer, including one that can run on the CDMA (code division multiple access) wireless networks. Analysts in the past have said that a variant of Apple's custom chip for the iPad, the A4, could find its way into future versions of the iPhone, which could make the devices faster.