The quest to discover the iPhone 4G gains ground

Gizmodo claims to have gotten its hands on an iPhone 4G prototype

A popular Web site that focuses on consumer electronics claims to have gotten a legitimate prototype of the next Apple iPhone, which was said to be found in a California bar.

Enthusiast site Gizmodo got hold of the smartphone, disassembled the device and published a detailed blog entry saying it is "the real thing." The unit was found in a bar in Redwood City, California, close to Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, California. The phone was in what appeared to be an iPhone 3GS case, perhaps as a disguise.

Some enthusiast sites earlier claimed the unit was an iPhone clone and Gizmodo said it was skeptical when it first saw the device. Writers at the site couldn't get the device running, but after a week of analyzing components and features, Gizmodo concluded that the device is an iPhone 4G.

The iPhone 4G is a nickname for the next version of the smartphone. Apple usually releases new iPhones in yearly increments, and the iPhone 3GS was announced in June last year.

Responding to Gizmodo's claims, blogger John Gruber said on his site Daring Fireball that although the photos are not conclusive, he believes in Gizmodo's confidence behind the unit's legitimacy. Gruber also said that he knows from sources at Apple that an iPhone prototype was lost.

"I now believe this is an actual unit from Apple -- a unit Apple is very interested in getting back," Gruber wrote, adding he isn't certain that the device was the actual production unit Apple intends to ship to users.

"I think it's a testbed frame -- thicker, with visible (un-Apple-like) seams, meant to fit in 3GS cases so as to disguise units out in the wild," Gruber said.

Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A Mac computer recognized the device as an iPhone, Gizmodo reported, and the phone contains Apple-labeled components. While Gizmodo staff could not get the actual device running, the post about the phone said that the person who found it in the bar played with the iPhone 4.0 OS until it was remotely killed by Apple. Apple announced the iPhone OS 4.0 earlier this month.

If Gizmodo's findings are true, the phone has many new hardware features, including a front-facing video camera and flash for the camera. The device is also thinner and sports a new, almost-flat design, with a plastic surface on the back. The device is 3 grams (0.1 ounces) heavier than the iPhone 3GS, but is also thinner, Gizmodo said. The iPhone 3GS weighs about 135 grams.

Gizmodo also said the device may include what could be a smaller, but higher-resolution, display. The device also has smaller components to incorporate a larger battery. Smaller components tend to be more power-efficient, and with a larger battery, the device would have improved battery life. The device also has separate volume buttons.

There are many expectations for the next generation of the iPhone. The Wall Street Journal last month reported that Apple is developing two new iPhones for launch this summer, including one that can run on the CDMA (code division multiple access) wireless networks. Analysts in the past have said that a variant of Apple's custom chip for the iPad, the A4, could find its way into future versions of the iPhone, which could make the devices faster.

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