Second iPhone prototype may be missing

Wolverton writes for the San Jose Mercury News/McClatchy.

Apple seems to have lost another prototype of its next-generation iPhone.

Photographs and a video of an iPhone-shaped device that includes Apple’s logo and apparently an Apple-designed processor cropped up Wednesday on a Vietnamese website.

The site user who posted the information said the device was an iPhone 4G that was recently brought to Vietnam.


Assuming the phone is an authentic Apple prototype, it would mark a second serious breach in Apple’s legendary wall of secrecy in as many months. Last month, tech blogs Engadget and Gizmodo published photographs that they said showed another iPhone prototype, which was discovered in a Redwood City, Calif., bar.

An Apple representative did not respond to a request seeking comment on the Vietnamese report.

Although it’s unusual for Apple gadgets to be seen months before they are officially unveiled, the recent leaks are not all that surprising, said Van Baker, an analyst with technology research firm Gartner Inc.

IPhones have transmitters that connect to cellphone networks, which means they require regulatory approval and a good deal of field testing, Baker said.

“That complicates the [secrecy] issue a little bit for them,” he said.

The cellphone pictured on the Vietnamese site is almost identical to the one found in Redwood City. The chief differences are that it doesn’t have two screws on its bottom surface and it says it has 16 gigabytes of storage. The amount of storage in the Redwood City gadget was crossed out.

The latest report had at least one notable revelation. Unlike Gizmodo and Engadget, the Vietnamese site dismantled the iPhone prototype enough to discover the chip inside. Photos indicate that the new iPhone will include a version of Apple’s A4 processor, the same chip at the heart of the company’s iPad tablet.

Analysts said it wasn’t surprising Apple would put an A4 processor in the next iPhone.

The company has been widely expected to design chips for its phones since it bought chipmaker P.A. Semi in 2008.

The current iPhone, the 3GS, reportedly runs on a Samsung chip that is slower than the A4.

Putting the A4 in the next iPhone “is a logical move,” said Tim Bajarin, principal analyst at tech consulting firm Creative Strategies.

It was unclear from the Vietnamese site how the prototype was obtained or by whom. In the past, iPhones have been made by contract manufacturers in Taiwan.

Gizmodo bought the previously disclosed prototype for $5,000 from a person who obtained it after an Apple engineer left it in a Redwood City bar. The tech blog returned the phone to Apple after the company asked for it back.

Police are investigating the incident as a possible felony theft.