The iPhone 4 Is Real: Anyone Buying the “Drunk Engineer” Story?

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By now, many of you will probably already know that Gizmodo actually got their hands on that iPhone prototype they’ve been reporting so heavily on, by paying $5,000 to someone who found the phone at a bar near Apple headquarters.

You may also know that Apple has asked for its return, which Gizmodo (and many others, myself included) are taking as evidence confirming that it is indeed the next iPhone. The story of how it was lost reads like something out of a movie in the Gizmodo account, even though many of us drunkenly lose our phones everyday and it obviously isn’t that dramatic of an experience.

Then again, we aren’t losing the prototype of a highly coveted device built by an incredibly secretive company. Which brings me to my next point. Is anyone buying that this guy (Gary Powell, an iPhone engineer working on the Baseband technology) actually just got drunk and forgot the thing on his bar stool?

I’m not an engineer working for Apple, and my phone is just a widely available 3GS and not the yet-to-be-released iPhone 4 or whatever it’ll be called, but that phone is also the last thing I’m likely to misplace. I’d sooner lose my wallet or my keys, in fact. But if it’s a plant, why go to such lengths to engineer a simple leak?

I think it may be as simple as the ante-upping nature of Apple’s hype machine. After the year or more lead up to the iPad’s unveiling, including photographic and video leaks, first-hand accounts from all kinds of sources, and the will-they or won’t-they ballet that went on for months and months, building a good head of buzz up around the next iPhone in the time remaining would be rather challenging using Apple’s conventional tactics. Many eyes are stuck firmly on the iPad and what’s next for it, and won’t be distracted by the usual grainy photographs.

A hands-on exclusive that conveniently makes its way to one of the most prominent and widely-read tech blogs operating on the web today is definitely one way to wrest the spotlight away from the iPad and back onto the iPhone, where Apple needs consumer attention to be come June. It may seem elaborate, but when you consider the cost of such a plan versus a widespread marketing campaign, and that Apple’s secretive-chocolate-factory reputation remains intact, it starts to seem very reasonable indeed.

Whatever the case, it looks like we know what the next iPhone will have in store. Here’s a quick rundown of the highlights in case you missed them:

  • Front-facing camera (almost certainly for video chat)
  • Separate volume buttons
  • Micro-SIM (like the iPad)
  • Better back camera and camera flash
  • Aluminum border with metallic buttons
  • Optical glass or ceramic back for improved signal reception
  • Slightly smaller, higher resolution screen
  • Secondary mic for noise cancellation
  • 16 percent larger battery

Gizmodo tore the phone down, too, and found out that the internals are all Apple production parts, which makes it incredibly unlikely that this isn’t the real thing. It remains to be seen whether or not the final production units that ship this summer will look exactly like this, but I think it’s safe to say we’ll see something pretty darn close.

The best part of the new design in my opinion? Not the industrial styling that brings it more in line with the current iMac and MacBook offerings, though that’s pretty awesome. No, it’s all the phone-oriented improvements Apple seems to be making. I’d never trade my iPhone in for anything, but I have to say that it hasn’t been the greatest cell phone I’ve ever had, in terms of strict telecommunications functions.

The new back for improved signal transmission, the second, noise-canceling mic, the larger battery and the front facing camera all point to this being the best iPhone yet for actual real-time communication, which is definitely something worth getting excited about.

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