Pictures Show Why iPhone Rules

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Apple’s iPhone is so mighty, that leaked photos of the next version will top any story about real devices. Tom Jowitt asks how this has happened

Following the leak of the next version of Apple’s iPhone, there has been online debate, even about mundane details such as the iPhone’s volume buttons and backplate. It seems that Apple has come to dominate our ideas about phones, to an almost unbelievable degree. How did this happen?

Apple iPhone 4G Leak

Apple brought out the iPhone back in 2007 and, with a new model each year, has become a very profitable player.

This year, the cycle is continuing, with  a new handset expected in June, when the company traditionally unveils its new iPhones at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Engadget's images of the Apple iPhone 4G
Engadget

And this looks like being a big change, according to pictures of an iPhone 4G prototype were leaked to the tech website Engadget, and the device itself wound up at rival site Gizmod, after it the device was left on a barstool in San Jose.

The bar, Gourmet Haus Staudt, apparently serves good German ales, a fact that Apple engineer Gray Powell can attest to. Before he lost the prototype, he used it to post a Facebook status: “I underestimated how good German beer is.”

This was the last time he used the device, as Powell then inadvertently left the prototype handset behind when he left the bar, which goes to show that even ultra secretive corporate development policies can be undone by simply human error.

But someone picked up the device, and began to play with it, noticing that the phone was “running an OS that was decidedly new,” and was equipped with a front facing camera. Two and two made four, and the finder realised he was looking at a new Apple iPhone.

He realised the actual new phone was hidden inside the chassis of an iPhone 3GS – which suggests a very big physical change in this year’s iPhone. He sent pictures of the device to Engadget, which apparently declined to pay $5,000 asking price. The gadget website Gizmodo did pony up, and which leads to interesting question marks over “checkbook journalism”, and some legal considerations as well.

We Want It Back

Apple soon realised what had happened and the phone was promptly “bricked” (shut down remotely), to prevent any revelations about the software. Apple then went legal.

Bruce Sewell, senior vice president and general counsel at Apple, wrote a letter to Gizmodo, demanding the return of the next-generation prototype. “It has come to our attention that Gizmodo is currently in possession of a device that belongs to Apple,” the letter read. “This letter constitutes a formal request that you return the device to Apple.”

This pretty much confirms to many people that the leaked photos of the iPhone were therefore genuine.

“We’re as skeptical – if not more – than all of you,” said Gizmodo. “We get false tips all the time. But after playing with it for about a week – the overall quality feels exactly like a finished final Apple phone – and disassembling this unit, there is so much evidence stacked in its favor, that there’s very little possibility that it’s a fake. In fact, the possibility is almost none. Imagine someone having to use Apple components to design a functioning phone, from scratch, and then disseminating it to people around the world.”

So What Have We Learnt?

This tale, of what could be one of the most well publicised leaks of new technology, is interesting not just because of the tale itself, but it nicely illustrates the high level of interest that people retain in Apple’s forthcoming products.

It has been stated before how the Apple iPhone is still the benchmark by which all other mobile devices are judged. This story just confirms the inherent fascination that Apple holds in our collective conciousness, no matter how irritating. Until other mobile manufacturers can break this cycle, by offering a genuine alternative, then it looks as if Apple can really do no wrong.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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