Updated: New iPhone prototype found?

Xavier Verhoeven
18 April, 2010
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A device that appears to be a prototype iPhone has been found on the floor of a bar in San Jose, California.

The photos are doing the rounds on the net, and they are pretty convincing. The original report by Engadget suggests the phone has a front-facing camera, 80GB of storage (which seems odd), and is not booting. It had previously booted however, and Engadget describes the operating system as “decidedly new”, which is another cause for concern.

There are a number of cues that suggest this might be a prototype rather than than the actual new iPhone. For starters, the aluminium sides have seams that I would never expect to see on an iPhone. They make it look more like any other phone on the market, and I don’t think Apple would go for such a generic look. Also, the storage size on the back of the device is listed “XXGB”, which is a clear indicator that this is an unfinished product. (Though would Apple go to the trouble of adding this level of detail to a prototype? I’m sceptical.)

It also appears the volume switch has been replaced by two discrete buttons, which I certainly wouldn’t complain about. It’s sometimes hard to distinguish the up from down when the current iPhone’s in my pocket.

Like I said, I’m sceptical of this one, despite the photo clarity. But if Apple has something similar up their sleeves, I can’t wait to see it.

I’ll add more information as it comes to hand.

Update: Engadget has added another photo rumour-lovers might be familiar with. The blurry photo that was first leaked before the announcement of the iPad it depicts, appears to show the same prototype iPhone as has just been found. While the photo itself isn’t overly conclusive, John Gruber thinks Engadget’s confidence might be “based partly on factors they can’t publish”. Here’s what Gruber has to say:

“So I called around, and I now believe this is an actual unit from Apple — a unit Apple is very interested in getting back. I am not certain that this looks like the actual production unit Apple intends to ship to consumers. I think it’s a testbed frame — thicker, with visible (un-Apple-like) seams, meant to fit in 3GS cases so as to disguise units out in the wild. It’s hard to tell from the photos. But I think it is the real deal in terms of the internals and display being next-gen iPhone hardware, and the new glass back. Put another way: the front looks legit, the back looks legit, but the sides I’m not sure about. A front-facing camera and 960×640 display are two things I believe are slated for the next iPhone. (The “80 GB” of storage sounds like a mistake to me, but who knows? SSD storage typically comes only in even power-of-two increments.)”

So assuming this is a prototype unit (whether the actual finished model or not), it looks like the new iPhone might feature a glass back. Gruber also points readers to a patent describing high durability ceramic device enclosures. “Glass-like appearance and feel but far stronger and more scratch resistant. And: radio transparent,” he writes.

I’m intrigued. I wonder if we might hear something before the rumoured June announcement at WWDC?

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