New iPhone Prototype Leaked?

The phone had a camera on the back with what looked like a flash for taking pictures at night. The lens for the back camera was bigger than the lens on the existing iPhone 3GS, which seemed to infer improved optics for better photo quality.

On the top of the phone was a second microphone, possibly for noise cancellation. The front of the phone also sported a camera. This second camera on the front could indicate the possibility of video-conferencing for the next iPhone.

Gizmodo's Chen took the entire phone apart to see if the device's innards could verify its origin. "Once I opened it up, I was completely sure it was an Apple product," Chen said. He explained that the case could have easily been mocked up by a machinist trying to create a fake, but the internal parts, says Chen, were perfectly crafted.

But Chen said that even after dissecting the device, piece by delicate piece, he still could not tell whether the prototype could run on cellular networks other than AT&T, Apple's exclusive nationwide carrier.

Chen's in depth write-up, photo gallery and videos of the device garnered huge traffic Monday for Gizmodo, more than 3 million views in its first 12 hours online. Some speculated that this was an ingenious ploy by Apple to create a viral marketing campaign.

CNet's Tong said he douted that.

"There is no way they are playing us,'' he said.

Then, late Monday night, Lam said Gizmodo got a letter that confirmed its suspicions.

The letter came from Apple's senior counsel.

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

The tech community has been buzzing about how Jobs may have reacted to the apparent leak. "The brand that is Apple, and everything that comes out of it from start to finish is meticulously built and crafted and controlled. I don't know what Steve Jobs does when he loses control. But I don't want to be around him right now," said Tong.

Gizmodo's Lam says the device has been returned and in a note to Apple, Lam made this request: "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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