Back in July, someone sent in this photo described as portraying a prototype phone, presumably iPhone 5, in the hands of an Apple employee on his way from work in San Francisco.

We find it hard to believe Apple would be foolish enough to lose another iPhone prototype – and at a bar, too – but this comes from CNET and they’re vouching for it. An iPhone prototype – probably for an upcoming model,  allegedly went missing last month in Cava22, a Mexican restaurant and bar in San Francisco’s Mission District.

The device may have been already sold on Craiglist for $200, the publication has it. CNET has learned that the errant phone “sparked a scramble by Apple security to recover the device over the next few days”. Apple representative allegedly contacted the police, the story goes, to tell the device was “priceless” and that Apple “was desperate” to see it recovered. No details were provided about the phone’s looks or what iOS version it was running. Here’s the thriller part:

Apple electronically traced the phone to a two-floor, single-family home in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood, according to the source. When San Francisco police and Apple’s investigators visited the house, they spoke with a man in his twenties who acknowledged being at Cava 22 on the night the device went missing. But he denied knowing anything about the phone. The man gave police permission to search the house, and they found nothing, the source said.

And this is where the story gets interesting:

Before leaving the house, the Apple employees offered the man money for the phone no questions asked, the source said, adding that the man continued to deny he had knowledge of the phone.

Could it be just us or does that last bit make the entire story less believable. Apple last year pushed the police and FBI into raiding a journalist’s house and now they bribe someone to get their stolen property?

Speculating further, could this story have anything to do with a photo 9to5Mac obtained from a tipster back in July. Pictured above, it shows what looks like an Apple employee hunched over an iPhone-like device. The tipster claimed he took the shot as the employee was on his way home from work in San Francisco.

But let’s step back for a moment and consider other scenarios that could be at play here. First, a sane person like our writer Jordan Kahn would ask who could possibly be CNET’s source for this story if not Apple? If it were police, CNET would have hinted that police confirmed that the phone was lost and there would have been some paper trail to follow. It surely wasn’t the guy who reportedly found the phone. Of course, we’ve been through all this before…

Apple last year famously lost an iPhone 4 prototype encased in an iPhone 3GS-like shell at a German beer bar in California. The finder shopped the prototype around until Gizmodo, a Gawker-operated tech blog, ran a video clip showcasing the phone and racketing up its page views sky high in the following days and weeks. Apple pressed charges, the FBI stepped in, the journalists’ house was raided… In short, this had gotten the media to talk about Apple’s upcoming iPhone. Even Steve Jobs joked when he put up a slide of then new iPhone 4 at the summer developer conference last year: “Stop me if you’ve already seen this”, he quipped. It took more than a year to settle the case with two misdemeanors filed against the finders.

So, where do we go from here? Meet us in comments…

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2 Responses to “CNET: iPhone prototype lost in Mexican bar, Apple employees offer cash to finder?”

  1. [...] that a Bernan Heights man claimed Apple posed as police officers to search his house for the missing iPhone 5. SFWeekly is now reporting that their earlier report was had some incorrect points, and [...]

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  2. [...] that a Bernan Heights man claimed Apple posed as police officers to search his house for the missing iPhone 5. SFWeekly is now reporting that their earlier report was had some incorrect points, and [...]

    Like