The “Next iPhone” Debacle: How It All Happened

By , Apr 20, 2010

Are you feeling a little confused about how and when this whole lost next iPhone story happened? Yeah, me too… Here is a short and sweet wrapup for you:

February 21: A kid posts on TwitPic what seems to be leaked pictures of the next iPhone. He says: “I found this photo while doing a twitter search for “iPhone 4G”, and found this pic and saved this photo from a pic uploaded by a chinese tweeter.” No one will really see or hear about these pictures until they were confirmed real by Gizmodo a couple months later.

March 18: Gray Powell, a young Apple software engineer walks into a bar in San Jose, most likely gets drunk and forgets a prototype of the next iPhone. On the same night someone finds this phone that appears to be an iPhone 3GS. From what he can tell, the iPhone is running a new OS (most likely OS 4).

March 19: The guy who found the iPhone wakes up and looks at the new iPhone and realizes it’s been killed. Nothing but the “plug to iTunes” logo shows on the phone. The phone has been remotely wiped off by Apple. He then notices there is something wrong with this iPhone. It takes it out of the case and realizes it is actually a prototype.

April 17: A month after the supposed next iPhone was lost and found, Engadget gets the first scoop and scores some pictures of it. Some say it’s a fake. I’m one of those skepticals.

April 18: Engadget gives more proofs it’s for real. In the same time, John Gruber talks to some of his sources at Apple and confirms the theory of the lost iPhone.

April 19: Gizmodo allegedly paid between $5,000 and $10,000 to get their hands on the device. They took it apart and ran a full review of it. At this point, there is absolutely no doubt that this is indeed the next iPhone.

On the same day, Gruber publishes a new post to clarify that Apple didn’t “lose” the iPhone, but that it got stolen. If you ask me, I believe it was indeed lost but they call it stolen so they can get it back quicker.

Apparently during the day, Steve Jobs himself called Gizmodo and asked them to give them back the lost/stolen iPhone. Gizmodo asks for a proper written request. Later that day, they receive an email from Apple’s General Counsel asking for the phone back. Gizmodo agrees.

What Now?

Is everything going to be back to normal again? I doubt it. For one, Gray Powell, the dude who lost the phone, probably lost his job at the same time. Knowing the ruthlessness of Steve Jobs, dude is most likely not going to find a job in the Silicon Valley for the next 50 years. Does he deserve this? Well, yes and no. Gray’s loss of the iPhone lead to the biggest leak in history of Apple’s products and if you’re going to be so stupid to lose such an important thing, you do deserve to be fired. At any rates, it sucks to be him right now…

There is also the ethical issue. Was it ok for Gizmodo to buy this lost/stolen iPhone when they could have helped return it to Apple instead. Blogs are trashing Gizmodo right now for publishing all this. I think Gizmodo did what everybody would have done in the same situation. Heck, were they supposed to keep all this info for themselves? No, they’re a tech blog, that’s what they do for a living. One thing is sure though, they should prepare themselves to face a UTSA lawsuit

Where Gizmodo was wrong was when they gave more details about Gray Powell, the guy who lost the phone. This was a very shitty move from Giz to put this poor guy on the spot like they did by putting his name out there.

What do you think of this whole situation? Are you glad you got an early sneak peek at the next iPhone? Do you believe Gizmodo was wrong in buying the device? Do you agree they completely screwed things up by revealing the identity of Apple’s employee? I look forward to reading your thoughts.

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  • Jeffery

    I think gizmodo is cool. They did nothing wrong other than post the dudes name. Yeah he is probably fired and yeah he deserves it he also deserves mad props for being a idiot and losing the phone so we could get all these details about it.

  • PP

    Its not like this was a matter of national security or anything, its just a prototype of a commercial product of a company that was leaked and not surprisingly dissected and features on a tech blog which is also just a commercial entity. Normally Apple seems very able to control the whole game concerning their products, using tech blogs like Engadget and Gizmodo for their own purposes. This time the game worked the other way around.. Deal with it Apple.

  • PP

    By the way, as for Gizmodo publishing the guys name; that might very well turn out the be the sole reason for this guy NOT getting fired (bad PR once he’s known).

  • jako.uk

    plain and simple: MARKETING STRATEGY
    by the way that design looks ugly,entirely flat, squared off, front facing camera is pretty useless, 3g/3g s design is a way better
    mic for noise cancellation, Camera flash? like android phones? … :$
    feeling android pressure?

    An iPhone with bigger screen,5MP camera, more ram and true multitasking would be a better option

  • http://www.ideveloperz.com Matthew

    And an OLED screen.

  • Alex

    Look if Apple was gonna sue, they would of sue by now! This crap is all over the internet….on the news and I’m hearing it from 50 year old guys in the break room where I work at….I have to agree with jako.uk, this is nothing but one huge marketing strategy staged by Apple.

    Guys do you honestly think that something like this could of happened by mistake?

  • Brum

    I have to agree with PP on the whole “Powell Identity” matter. It was probably the only way to save the poor schmuck’s career after an honest mistake and keep him from “not finding a job in the Silicon Valley for the next 50 years”. Had he remained anonymous, he’d now just be another “former Apple employee”. But now he’s THE Gray Powell, accidental liberator of technology, drunk freedom fighter and an unfortunate Internet celebrity.

    I’d hire him any day, if only for the publicity.

  • BB

    I really think what Gizmodo did was unethical, but come on ! We got the scoop and if it weren’t for them, we would’ve thought that this was all fake when it’s obviously NOT !! Nevertheless, what they did with revealing the identity of the Apple emloyee was disgusting !!

  • http://ck2.blogspot.com ck

    I would be pissed i was Steve Jobs. And yes, Mr. GP has probably broken a few terms of employment (or atleast specific to the handling of this new phone).

    On Gizmodo. Yeah it was sleazy as how they went about acquiring it. But thats precisely what they do. Its like blaming a paparazzi for publishing pics of celebrity without their permission. We all want to see them, irrespective they want to publish them. But we all agree that these people are real sleaze balls, and wouldnt want anything like that to happen to us. DoubleStandards !! surprise surprise.

    On the whole, Apple’s attempt to keep this super-secret was bound to crack. But in all its good publicity for them. It just shows, how many crazy fellas are out there. No one really bothers about the next Dell gizmo, MSFT zune, or even for that matter a next Android from Google & Co.

  • Paul

    If you were Steve Jobs, knowing how he loves keeping secrets around his stuff, would you leave a dude going to a bar in San Jose with the “Next-iPhone”? Or you would had tell him:”Hey, you… Gray thing! Wanna make some tests? Do them here! I didn’t build this huge Infinity thing just to fill an hole in Google Earth!!!”

    Yeah… this means I vote for the marketing strategy :D

    BTW: Does Gray Powell really exist?

    Hello from Milan!

    PS – Sorry for my english…

  • lucas

    sure its all apple marketing strategies, they are lunching a phone that must take over all other phone for a whole year what is better that getting the phone “lost” and found by gizmodo in less than 12 hour making a review and picture to get people comments on what they change on it before its even out for sale…thats giving them time to corect things that sucks before getting it out so more people will buy it instead of the new ericson or anything other than apple iphone

  • nik

    yeah Lucas, that’s exactly what I think apple did. not like something like this would happen on accident.
    it’s basicly a sick FREE ad that’s gonna build way more excitment than that OS 4 thing they did a lil while ago.

    and I think they are gonna revamp it a little. it’s too square. like a droid almost. apple isn’t one to copy…

  • Jeffrey Hagedon

    I think it was a carefully orchestrated ruse for all the free publicity and is a red herring. The real version will be slightly different. Why would they not use the GPS MobileMe to locate the device beyond merely “wiping” it? It doesn’t quite add up. It also implies that there are other iPhones in disquise out in the wild. I seriously doubt that would be allowed.

  • slowhand

    C’mon people…
    This did NOT happen by mistake!

    To me this is just a poorly constructed trick play by Apple to further spark publicity for the next iPhone.
    And, of course, it’s working…

  • Bryan

    Giz should have kept everything possible anonymous. That guy was already having a bad year.
    Alternatively, it could be a great marketing tool for Apple. Apple could have simply “lost possession” of the “prototype” in order to gauge people’s reaction to the news.

  • A

    It’s all a scam, apple wants the public to thinks this ugly phone is the next iPhone, only to impress when it realy comes out, oh and create some hype on the way. It looks like a samsung or LG. Yuck

  • Outhig

    It wasn’t ugly!

  • Derpsaloteer

    Its so funny reading these comments 3 years later.

    • Jo

      yeah lol