Inside the iPhone investigation

People who follow tech news probably know that an Apple employee left a prototype of an upcoming G4 iPhone on a bar stool about a week ago. The phone ended up in the hands of Gizmodo ( editor Jason Chen, who proceeded to tell the world all about the gadget. Gizmodo is a website devoted to gadgets and getting an iPhone prototype is like winning the Super Bowl for a tech writer. Oh yeah, word is Gizmodo paid the phone’s finder a cool $5,000.

Apple hasn’t denied that the iPhone prototype is real. The company filed a complaint with the Santa Clara (Calif.) County District Attorney, who raided Chen’s home yesterday and seized Chen’s computer. Apple wants to know how Chen got the phone. In other words, Apple wants him to reveal his sources.

Not so fast, folks.

According Yahoo’s The Newsroom blog: (, the district attorney said the computer won’t be examined until authorities  determine whether Chen is protected by California’s shield law, which prevents law enforcement agencies from executing search warrants on journalists. I think it’s clear that Chen is a journalist and should be protected; his computer should be left untouched and returned immediately.

It’s also clear that Apple needs to evaluate testing procedures for its unreleased products. The company is notoriously tight-lipped about its new products and major updates. Only A-level journalists like Walter Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal and David Pogue of The New York Times get to test- drive Apple gadgets before the general public can.

I don’t think Apple intended for the phone to be leaked to press, but it ended up sliced and diced by Gizmodo. The phone’s as-yet-unnamed finder knew what he or she had, and reportedly put the device up for bid to a number of technology-covering websites. Sure, the finder could have returned the phone to Apple, but that would have meant no sneak peek behind the G4 iPhone curtain for the rest of us.

I don’t think we’ve heard the end of this story. Stay tuned.

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