By the time Gizmodo blogger Chen got the device in his hands, Apple had remotely disabled it. This level of connectivity lent credence to the authenticity of the device.
Another intriguing clue was the custom-made case, designed seemingly to disguise the unreleased tech treasure as an older iPhone model. The device apparently left behind in the bar is more angular than the latest available iPhone model, and while the face of the device remains virtually unchanged, the square corners and aluminum edges are new.
The case used to house the device was the case for the older iPhone 3GS -- the perfect camouflage, techies gleefully pointed out. Brian Tong, editor for CNet, said, "This may not be the final design for the next iPhone, but the fact that they built a fake case to make it look like the earlier iPhone, that says a lot."
ABC News got an opportunity to examine the reputed new prototype in Chen's Fremont, Calif., home office. It felt decidedly different from previous iPhones, more industrial and less rounded.
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 he could verify its origin. "Once I opened it up, I was completely sure it was an Apple product," he 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.
But last Monday night, Gizmodo received a leter that confirmed its surpicions. 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."
Gizmodo ultimately returned the device, with a final request from Lam: "I hope you take it easy on the kid who lost it. I don't think he loves anything more than Apple."