Wednesday, April 21, 2010

iPhone 4G leak: honest mistake or PR stunt? *Update

*Update: It appears that this strange set of circumstances was not an orchestrated PR move after all. This story is definitely far from over!

The big story this week is undoubtedly the leak of the iPhone 4G, which was reported on Monday by Gizmodo. As the story goes, an Apple software engineer brought an iPhone 4G prototype into a bar disguised in a case to appear like a regular old iPhone 3G (sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, no?). The engineer, who was celebrating his birthday, had a bit too much to drink and left the phone at the bar without realizing it. This is where things get weird. The person that came upon the phone somehow noticed something unusual about it and sold the phone to Nick Denton, CEO of Gawker Media, parent company of tech blog Gizmodo. Denton, who had previously put up an offer of $100,000 for an advance look at the iPad, apparently paid just $5,000 for this iPhone 4G prototype.

What are the odds?

The real story here is how Gizmodo came to possess this next generation iPhone in the first place. Apple is notorious for almost conspiratorial levels of secrecy around new product launches, and has not even confirmed the existence of an iPhone 4G model despite media musings around the phone’s development. So it is more than just a small mix-up when one of their engineers drunkenly leaves a carefully disguised test model of the phone in a bar. Certainly, this could be a particularly unfortunate case of carelessness on the part of a young engineer whose days at Apple could now be numbered. But it could also be that the phone was leaked by Apple intentionally to drum up some major publicity and gauge consumer reactions to the new release.

As more details emerge, it is beginning to look more and more that the leak was a true result of human error, and not a sly move on the part of Apple’s PR machine. Gizmodo reportedly received a letter from Apple attorneys requesting the immediate return of the phone, and Gizmodo has complied. With this strange tale at its apparent end, there is one thing that is clear. Whether or not the leak was intentional, this entire saga has left Apple fans clamoring for more details about the phone’s release, and has only served to enhance the cloak and dagger mystique that the marketing geniuses at Apple have cultivated for so long. And I think we all know that you can’t buy that kind of publicity.

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