Video: iPhone prototype found in a bar

updated 4/20/2010 12:09:13 PM ET 2010-04-20T16:09:13

The editor of gadgets Web site Gizmodo said that the site paid $5,000 for the iPhone believed to be the new device Apple will release in a few months, and that Apple Monday asked for the phone back and received it.

"It has come to our attention that Gizmodo is currently in possession of a device that belongs to Apple," said Apple attorney Bruce Sewell in a one-paragraph letter to Gizmodo Monday. "This letter constitutes a formal request that you return the device to Apple. Please let me know where to pick up the unit."

Gizmodo editor Jason Chen told MSNBC Tuesday that the phone "was not stolen; it was found by (a) person in the bar" in Redwood City, Calif., about 20 miles from Apple's Cupertino headquarters.

He said the phone had been left in the bar by a "software engineer."

"At no point was it considered stolen, or was there a theft," he said. "Yes, we paid $5,000 for it ... I don't believe Apple will sue or press charges or take any legal action. The information's already out there; people already saw what it looked like."

Chen said he does not believe "that it was any kind of wrongdoing, because it wasn't stolen; it was just a lost phone, and actually we did already give back the phone to Apple. They claimed it was their property and we gave it back yesterday."

Apple did not indicate whether further action will be taken, but what happened is a first for the company that is known to be among the most secretive on Earth.

"A prototype Apple device has never been exposed this way, and the company has issued cease-and-desist orders for less tangible reports on future products," Ross Rubin, NPD director of industry analysis for The NPD Group research firm, noted Monday.

Chen made the circuit of TV talk shows on Tuesday morning, also sharing information about the new iPhone, which was taken apart by Gizmodo staffers and analyzed on the site.

Asked whether Gizmodo profited from stolen property, Chen said no. "If you mean we profited from people looking at our Web site, sure, we did profit."

Gizmodo editorial diredtor Brian Lam, the recipient of Apple's letter, shared his response to Apple's attorney, on Gizmodo's site.

"Happy to have you pick this thing up. Was burning a hole in our pockets. Just so you know, we didn't know this was stolen (as they might have claimed. meaning, real and truly from Apple. It was found, and to be of unproven origin) when we bought it. Now that we definitely know it's not some knockoff, and it really is Apple's, I'm happy to see it returned to its rightful owner.

P.S. I hope you take it easy on the kid who lost it. I don't think he loves anything more than Apple."

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