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'iPhone 4G' loser outed

Engineer + suds = career crash

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Updated As promised, Gizmodo has identified the unfortunate soul who left his prototype iPhone 4G in a northern Silicon Valley pub.

That'd be Gray Powell, a 27-year-old Apple software engineer working on the call-enabling iPhone Baseband Software.

But before we tell his story as reported by Gizmodo, we feel compelled to first say that if the tale is true, Powell has our complete sympathy. Anybody can make a mistake - and, trust us, a few fine German beers have been accomplices to this very Reg reporter's occasional misstep.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stein, shall we say.

But back to Powell's unfortunate bit of absentmindedness. As Gizmodo tells it, the young fellow spent the evening of March 18 enjoying a pint or more at the Gourmet Haus Staudt, a "German Specialty Store and Beer Garden" in Redwood City, California.

When he left, according to Gizmodo, his iPhone 4G, cleverly disguised in a case for an iPhone 3GS, remained behind on his - presumably still warm - bar stool.

At that point, as Gizmodo tells it, a "Random Really Drunk Guy" came out of the john, pointed to the phone, and asked the person who eventually ended up with it - and who remains unidentified - whether it belonged to him. When the as-yet-unidentified phone-bagger said no, the RRDG reportedly told him he had better hang onto it, thinking it belonged to a phone-bagger buddy.

The unidentified iPhone 4G recipent waited for Powell, but he never returned.

The unwitting new possessor of Apple's Next Big Thing™ then took the phone home with him, played with it for a bit - the camera crashed three times - and discovered that there was a Facebook app on it. When he launched that app, it took him to the Facebook page of Gray Powell.

The next morning the phone was dead - presumably borked by Apple's remote-wipe capability built into MobileMe. At that point the iPhone 4G's new owner noticed a few oddnessess about the phone - the front-facing camera, for example - and cracked open the case.

Inside was the iPhone 4G that has now been seen all over the web after Engadget eventually got photos of it and Gizmodo landed the device itself - purportedly for a $5K to $10K fee, depending upon whom you believe.

As Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker Media, publisher of Gizmodo, tweeted earlier today: "Yes, we're proud practitioners of checkbook journalism. Anything for the story!"

There's a happy ending to this tale of woe and intrigue, however: Gray Powell is still alive. Gizmodo's John Herrman says that he spoke with him today by phone:

  • Gray Powell: Hello?
  • John Herrman: Is this Gray?
  • G: Yeah.
  • J: Hi, this is John Herrman from Gizmodo.com.
  • G: Hey!
  • J: You work at Apple, right?
  • G: Um, I mean I can't really talk too much right now.
  • J: I understand. We have a device, and we think that maybe you misplaced it at a bar, and we would like to give it back.
  • G: Yeah, I forwarded your email [asking him if it was his iPhone], someone should be contacting you.

We love the simple "someone should be contacting you." Indeed.

We're willing to bet that this strange - and let's be honest, oddly fishy - saga will have another chapter or three before all is settled. ®

Updated

Gizmodo is clearly having more fun with this imbroglio than is Gray Powell.

In a post late Monday, the website reports that Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell has requested that the on-the-lam iPhone 4G prototype be returned to Cupertino - which, if true, might be considered as rather convincing confirmation than said prototype is real.

We'll leave it to you, dear reader, to gauge the levels of of testosteronic jousting between the two entities as revealed in this bit of correspondence, and to divine the relative importance of this dance to you, to Apple, to Gizmodo, and to Gray Powell.

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