Apple orders Gizmodo return iPhone 4G
Apple asks Gizmodo to hand over prototype iPhone
The technology website paid $5,000 for the device, which was dropped by Gray Powell, an Apple software engineer, in a bar in Redwood, California, near Apple's Cupertino headquarters.
Now Bruce Sewell, senior vice president and general counsel at Apple, has written to the site demanding the return of the next-generation iPhone prototype.
"It has come to our attention that Gizmodo is currently in possession of a device that belongs to Apple," the letter reads. "This letter constitutes a formal request that you return the device to Apple."
Gizmodo has agreed to return the device to Apple, saying that the letter is a formal acknowledgment that the device is a prototype of its forthcoming next-generation iPhone.
The device was found in a bar about 20 miles from Apple's headquarters, and belongs to Gray Powell, a software engineer at the technology giant.
At first, Gizmodo said it was unsure whether the phone was a prototype; it had been hidden inside an iPhone 3GS case, possibly to disguise the fact that it was an entirely new model.
"We get false tips all the time," said Gizmodo in a blog post.
"But after playing with it for about a week -- the overall quality feels exactly like a finished final Apple phone, and disassembling the unit -- there was so much evidence stacked in its favour that there's very little possibility that it's a fake."
The discovery of the so-called iPhone 4G has given gadget fans some tantalising clues as to what features the next-generation iPhone might have.
It appears to feature a ceramic backplate rather than plastic casing, a slightly smaller but higher-resolution screen, and smaller components and a larger battery that may improve battery life.
There is also a front-facing camera, possibly designed to be used for video chat, while the back-mounted camera has a better quality lens and flash.
The iPhone also uses a microSIM card, rather than a standard SIM card, which is also the case with the iPad.
Apple has refused to comment on the story, with its only official statement the letter sent to Gizmodo.
The company traditionally unveils its new iPhones in June, at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, and has already released details of iPhone 4.0, the next-generation operating system for Apple's range of multimedia devices.