Apple wants wayward new iPhone back

SAN JOSE, Calif. —Tech website Gizmodo on Tuesday said Apple requested it to return a device that the blog says is a fourth-generation iPhone.

The announcement comes a day after the blog said it had acquired a prototype of the next iPhone that was found in a bar, disguised as an older model.

Gizmodo on Tuesday posted an image of a letter addressed to Brian Lam, editorial director of Gizmodo, and signed by Brian Sewell, senior vice president and general counsel for Apple. The letter, which has Monday's date, says that "this letter constitutes a formal request that you return the device to Apple. Please let me know where to pick up the unit."

It appeared the letter was written on Apple letterhead.

On Monday, Gizmodo wrote that it had obtained a prototype of Apple's fourth-generation iPhone that it says was found in a Redwood City, Calif., bar. And its description of the device, which it says was disguised as a current-generation iPhone, has Apple fans buzzing about whether it is genuine.

Apple did not respond Monday to an e-mail from the San Jose Mercury News regarding the original Gizmodo report.

According to the blog's analysis of the device, its features appear to include a second camera for video chat — but not the ability to transport itself beyond Apple's Cupertino, Calif., campus. So how did it travel nearly 20 miles to Redwood City?

"It is my understanding that Apple considers this unit stolen, not lost," John Gruber wrote in his blog Daring Fireball, known for its analysis of Apple. Initially skeptical of the report, Gruber said his subsequent research supported Gizmodo's claim. He said he learned about an Apple patent for a device with a glass-like ceramic enclosure, a feature of the gadget obtained by Gizmodo.

"That this belongs to and was made by Apple is almost beyond question at this point," Gruber wrote.

Apple, which has sold more than 50 million iPhones worldwide, is expected to release the next iteration of the device in June, along with the iPhone 4.0 operating system, which will allow seamless multi-tasking for the first time.

Gizmodo, part of Gawker Media, heralded its scoop Monday with a video. The caption read: "You are looking at Apple's next iPhone. It was found lost in a bar in Redwood City, camouflaged to look like an iPhone 3GS. We got it. We disassembled it. It's the real thing."

On Tuesday, Gizmodo posted what they said was their reply to Apple. "Happy to have you pick this thing up," the reply said. "Was burning a hole in our pockets. Just so you know, we didn't know this was stolen (as they might have claimed. meaning, real and truly from Apple. It was found, and to be of unproven origin) when we bought it. Now that we definitely know it's not some knockoff, and it really is Apple's, I'm happy to see it returned to its rightful owner."

The Gizmodo reply lists the name of the person who has the phone and says Apple should coordinate with him to retrieve it.

Gizmodo also attached a "P.S." to the reply to Apple: "I hope you take it easy on the kid who lost it. I don't think he loves anything more than Apple."