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iPhone 4G Saga Continues: Gizmodo Buys “Stolen” Prototype?

All signs now point to the “iPhone 4G” prototype making the Apple rumor-site rounds as being a real Apple device. The phone, first unveiled to the world through photos published by Engadget on Saturday, has now fallen hand into the hands of rival Gizmodo, who purchased it from the person who “found it” in a bar in Redwood City, California. Gizmodo posted a review of the device today along with videos:

But the plot thickens thanks to a little backstory provided by John Gruber of Daring Fireball, who has been known to have good Apple sources in the past. Perhaps Gruber’s most interesting comment is that “Apple considers this unit stolen, not lost.” Gruber also said that it’s been “an open secret to those of us in the racket that Gizmodo purchased this unit about a week ago.” (Did Engadget‘s photos force Gizmodo to reveal the device, lest they lose the story?)

Info from Gruber’s sources makes him believe that it is indeed a prototype iPhone, although he’s not certain whether the final production unit will look like this device. He pointed to an Apple patent for high-durability ceramic enclosures that have a glass-like appearance as further evidence the device is real, as the back of the prototype seems to be made of the material. Apple could be looking to improve the iPhone’s reception by switching to the ceramic material. (And more proof that they’re sticking with AT&T for a while?)

Previously, the only evidence pointing to the prototype being fake was provided by website Applesfera, who posted grainy pictures of the prototype from a reader who said it was a Japanese knock-off.

Image from Applesfera.

Applesfera then posted an update saying that reader admitted the photos were fake (translation via Google):

Final Update: One of our readers (Ivan Meneses) sent us photos of a possible Japanese clone of the iPhone, which apparently had the same shape of the device which we discussed here. We have pushed our reader Ivan Meneses (user “meneses_pro”) to send us more information about the pictures of the prototype that we sent, requesting a video, and ended up confessing that their pictures are fake. We are sorry to all the confusion, but we wanted to continue to the end to finally know if your photos were genuine. We therefore continue with the mystery of whether the photos from Engadget are the new iPhone 4G or not …

Applesfera did not state exactly how the pictures were faked, but a commenter on our site suspects the buttons at least were photoshopped on. We also noted that the screen shows only 4 rows of apps when normally there are 5:

Rumored iPhone 4G shows only 4 rows of apps. Normally there are 5.

Gizmodo‘s review of the device indicates several new hardware additions, including:

  • Front-facing video chat camera
  • Improved regular back-camera (the lens is quite noticeably larger than the iPhone 3GS)
  • Camera flash
  • Micro-SIM instead of standard SIM (like the iPad)
  • Improved display. It’s unclear if it’s the 960×640 display thrown around beforeā€”it certainly looks like it, with the “Connect to iTunes” screen displaying much higher resolution than on a 3GS.
  • What looks to be a secondary mic for noise cancellation, at the top, next to the headphone jack
  • Split buttons for volume
  • Power, mute, and volume buttons are all metallic

Gizmodo was unable to activate the iPhone because Apple had remotely wiped it, erasing the firmware (there is no publicly known pirated version of the firmware available), but they could see the iPhone’s USB-cable graphic and noted that the screen’s resolution seems improved.

A few other items of note from Gizmodo’s review:

  • Xcode and iTunes recognized the device as an iPhone
  • It’s thinner than previous iPhones
  • Components are a tight fit inside and were designed specifically to fit into that casing
  • Components inside are labeled APPLE

Gizmodo was suspiciously silent about the type of chip inside. Is it Apple’s A4, like in the iPad? Or is it something else, perhaps contrary evidence?

Reaction to the design of the prototype has been mixed. My research on various popular Apple forums like MacRumors shows a mostly negative view, with many seeing it as a regression in design. One MacRumors poster asked, “Was Mr Ive on holiday when it was designed?” Gizmodo, however, doesn’t think the device is a departure at all, but rather “gets back to the simplicity of the iMac and the iPad.” Personally, I think they’re reaching. I think it looks like a Kodak V507 camera:

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  1. NookSurfer says:

    Nice new spin on PR’n the new iPhone from Apple. I think it’s all of Apple’s plan. Anyone want to take a shot at what Steve Jobs might say?

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