has identified the Apple engineer it says is responsible for losing the fourth-generation iPhone prototype in a Redwood City drinking establishment. Before the phone was remotely bricked by Apple, the person who found the phone reportedly saw the engineer was still logged into Facebook. Despite efforts to return the device, the finder was never contacted by Apple. Interestingly, the account does not mention the acknowledgement from the founder of Gizmodo's
parent company that he paid $5,000 for the phone.
Senior Contributing Editor Jesus Diaz tells the story like this
: the phone-finder - who, unlike the Apple engineer, is not named by Diaz - was sitting next to the Apple engineer at a bar on March 18. After the engineer left, a random drunk stranger noticed the phone, which was wrapped in what looked like a normal iPhone 3GS case, and gave it to the anonymous phone-finder. The anonymous phone-finder claims that he hung around in order to wait for the owner to return, passing the time by playing around with the iPhone. Though the phone reportedly crashed three times, the finder continued messing with it and found the engineer's Facebook profile (his final status update: "I underestimated how good German beer is"). Finally, after some time had passed, the phone-finder left, taking the iPhone with him, though purportedly with the plan of returning the phone to its owner.
The next day, the finder wakes up and can't stop tinkering with the device. He discovers the secret, separating the iPhone from its camouflage, though by now the phone's a fourth-generation brick. He reportedly calls Apple, but nobody buys his story that he's discovered a priceless piece of Apple intellectual property, the result of the kind of a security breach that Apple cracks down on harshly... such as the one that may have led a Chinese worker to kill himself
. All he gets for his trouble is a ticket number.
The story kind of peters out here. All Diaz says is "Weeks later, Gizmodo
got it." We don't know what happened in those weeks, but Nick Denton of Gawker Media (the parent of Gizmodo
) was willing to tell the Associated Press
that he paid $5,000 for the device. Denton said on his Twitter feed
that the folks at Gawker were "proud practitioners of checkbook journalism. Anything for the story!" A later tweet derided "a few clueless geeks" who Denton said "believe 'real journalists' wait for Steve Jobs or his publicists to make an announcement. Screw that." Gizmodo's
pageviews definitely benefited from the scoop, and most of us found the reveal pretty interesting. However, things may not end here: the Gawker blog Valleywag
had offered $100,000
for anyone who would let them spend an hour with the iPad, and got hit with a cease and desist letter from Apple's attorneys. As John Gruber noted earlier today
, Apple considers the iPhone stolen, not lost. It's worth remembering that Apple has been historically ruthless in the defense of its trade secrets.
And the luckless engineer? As of today at least, he was still at Apple: Jesus Diaz called him at his desk in Cupertino to talk about returning the device. It'd be nice if he gets to keep his job. After all, as Diaz says, "it's just a f***cking phone."