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Did another iPhone prototype go missing?

CNET is reporting that Apple lost a prototype iPhone in a bar — if that sounds familiar, that's because it'd be a suspiciously coincidental repeat of last year's infamous wandering iPhone 4. However, the report doesn't appear to include any evidence beyond a single unnamed source. After reviewing the details in CNET's story, we remain unconvinced.

The story goes that the phone "was lost" at a San Francisco tequila lounge called Cava 22, and that Apple contacted police to recover the lost phone. It was allegedly traced to a home, where the unnamed twentysomething resident — who had been at the bar — told police and Apple representatives that he had no knowledge of the phone, and even turned down a cash offer from Apple.

Perhaps more plausible in its fruitlessness, the tale falls apart when corroborative evidence fails to materialize. For starters, though the piece alleges that cops were involved, CNET itself says police told them, in CNET's words, "the company did not file a police report based on the loss at the bar." In last year's case, Apple didn't use local police, but went to a special team that focused on Silicon Valley industry crimes.

Furthermore, when CNET contacted the bar owner, he knew nothing about the situation. He did remember someone calling about a lost iPhone, but it's San Francisco — the likelihood of someone losing an iPhone in a bar is greater than the likelihood of someone driving a car that gets less than 30 miles to the gallon.

This may well turn into something. Apple is known to have connections with police in the Bay Area, and a paper trail isn't necessarily required for this to be true. Furthermore, CNET's Declan McCullagh, who co-bylined the piece, has a lengthy track record of sound journalism and reporting. But for the time being, it sounds like a story too tasty to not publish, even though it lacked the requisite degree of certitude. The reason we're addressing it is that it's simply everywhere, and we wanted to weigh in with some skepticism.

I should add, in the interest of disclosure, that I was on Gizmodo's staff the last time an iPhone prototype went missing in a Bay Area bar, though I wasn't involved in any aspect of the news that came of it.

More on iPhones past and future from msnbc.com:

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