Leaked next-gen iPhone 'real deal,' says expert

Fit and finish, timing make it likely Gizmodo's iPhone is what Apple will sell this summer

Apple iPhone 4G?
Apple's next-gen iPhone? Source: Gizmodo.com

The iPhone that was either lost by Apple Inc. or stolen from the company is probably what users will see this summer when Apple starts selling the next version of its iconic smartphone, a hardware expert said today.

The iPhone, which tech enthusiast blog Gizmodo said it obtained after the device was left in a Redwood City, Calif. bar, features a new industrial-style design and includes, among other things, a front-facing camera, an improved back-facing camera, a camera flash and a higher-resolution screen and a larger battery than previous models have had.

John Gruber, who writes the Daring Fireball blog, said it was common knowledge among insiders that the iPhone was stolen from Apple and then purchased by Gizmodo.

However the device came to the public's attention, it's likely the real thing, said Aaron Vronko, CEO of Portage, Mich.-based Rapid Repair, a repair shop and do-it-yourself parts supplier for consumer devices, including Apple's iPod and iPhone and Microsoft's Zune. Vronko regularly tears apart Apple hardware products -- most recently the new iPad -- to get an idea of how they're built and what capabilities they have.

"It looks like the real deal," said Vronko Monday. "I didn't think for a second that it's a fake," he added after poring over the photos Gizmodo posted of the device.

Vronko based his take on the fit and finish of the case, the details Gizmodo revealed of the iPhone's internal parts, and the amount of time remaining before the expected summer launch of the next model.

The iPhone in Gizmodo's possession could be a prototype that didn't make the cut, but that's unlikely, he said. "The fact of the matter, there's a real short list of people who Apple would allow to carry around a prototype, and it would be strange to waste that limited resource on the losing candidate," Vronko said.

The timing also led Vronko to bet that the Gizmodo iPhone is the final version. "If it was three or four months before launch, it might not be the final, but with just two months or so to go, assembly would be starting in earnest right about now," he said.

Even the massive design change from the iPhone 3G and 3GS makes sense, he said, citing Apple's practice of revamping the design of most of its products every two years. The iPhone 3G, which debuted in mid-2008, was the last major design shift of the company's smartphone. According to Gizmodo, the new iPhone features a flat back -- as opposed to the curved back case of the iPhone 3G and 3GS -- with an aluminum frame around the outside edges.

The change would also set the new iPhone apart from the copycat designs of other smartphones. "Apple is seeing a lot of competition now, a lot of devices look like what the iPhone looks like," Vronko said. "But nobody looks like [the Gizmodo iPhone.]"

The new phone allegedly also includes a front-facing camera -- presumably for video phone-style chat -- a slightly smaller screen that boasts a resolution as high as 960 by 460 pixels, a secondary microphone for noise cancellation and an improved back-facing camera.

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