Of cloaks, daggers and iPhones

April 19, 2010

Death, taxes and a new iPhone every summer — these are things the tech world can be certain of.

For the past three years, we have been forced to wait impatiently for Steve Jobs to pull the latest redesign of the company’s smartphone from his jeans pocket.

In 2007, we met the original iPhone. In 2008, Steve Jobs pulled out a new design, called the 3G, with GPS and a faster internet connection. In 2009, the 3GS had a faster brain, a compass and voice control.

Each time, the release was systematic and controlled.

This time, it’s been unveiled in a bunch of blurry images followed by a full photo shoot, some videos, and a wild story.

“It was found lost in a bar in Redwood City, camouflaged to look like an iPhone 3GS. We got it.”

The circumstances of its discovery gave way to rampant speculation around the Internet that Gizmodo, the Gawker-owned tech blog, paid the person who found it for access to the device. Then, there was confirmation that they paid. But they can’t make the device work. And there are inconsistent reports about where it was found, and so on and so on, and at this point, people are counting the hours until Apple intervenes. Or maybe the company placed it there on purpose. Perhaps time travelers from the future may have accidentally left it there. Or it’s a Japanese knockoff. No, Chinese!

It could all be an elaborate hoax.

The whole thing reeks of a bad spy novel, fitting in with Apple’s notoriously secretive practice of chaining pre-release products to desks, keeping employees in the dark, and covering the devices with black cloaks in rooms filled with security cameras, until the fateful morning when Jobs graces the stage of some auditorium and convinces people to plunk down their lunch money and more for the company’s latest device.

And it’s not as if pre-release devices haven’t been seen in the wild before. There were mixed reports of original iPhones seen in the six months between the public unveiling and first sale date in 2007. Heck, even Jobs purportedly showed up to a kid’s softball game with one.

Certainly, Gizmodo’s revelations have taken the Internet by storm as people ogle the curves of the maybe-sort-of NO-it-has-to-be! new iPhone. But one thing’s pretty certain: as Andy Ihnatko, tech columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, wrote in his blog:

“Gizmodo has a lot of explaining to do.”

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