Gizmodo outs down on his luck Apple engineer who lost his iPhone 4G

Mon, Apr 19, 2010

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The pre-release photos, videos, and information of Apple’s next-gen iPhone undoubtedly sent the folks over in Cupertino into a tailspin. We can’t even imagine what it was like at 1 Infinite Loop this morning, but suffice it to say, we feel for anyone who found themselves in the vicinity of Steve Jobs.

Now that all of the next-gen iPhone’s specs have been properly digested, Gizmodo recently detailed how they came in possession of said iPhone, and which unlucky Apple engineer was at fault.

As it turns out, 27 year old Apple Software Engineer Gray Powell may have had too many beers on March 18th at the Gourmet Haus Staudt, a German beer garden in Redwood City, California. While there, he even updated his Facebook status via his iPhone. “I underestimated how good German beer is,” he wrote. A few hours later, his next-gen iPhone would be in the hands of a complete stranger, who found it lying abandoned on a bar stool.

The person who ended up with the iPhone asked around, but nobody claimed it. He thought about that young guy sitting next to him [Powell], so he and his friend stayed there for some time, waiting. Powell never came back.

During that time, he played with it. It seemed like a normal iPhone. “I thought it was just an iPhone 3GS,” he told me in a telephone interview. “It just looked like one. I tried the camera, but it crashed three times.” The iPhone didn’t seem to have any special features, just two bar codes stuck on its back: 8800601pex1 and N90_DVT_GE4X_0493. Next to the volume keys there was another sticker: iPhone SWE-L200221. Apart from that, just six pages of applications. One of them was Facebook. And there, on the Facebook screen, was the Apple engineer, Gray Powell.

Thinking about returning the phone the next day, he left. When he woke up after the hazy night, the phone was dead. Bricked remotely, through MobileMe, the service Apple provides to track and wipe out lost iPhones. It was only then that he realized that there was something strange that iPhone. The exterior didn’t feel right and there was a camera on the front. After tinkering with it, he managed to open the fake 3GS.

According to Powell’s LinkedIn profile, he’s been at Apple since December 2008 where he’s responsible for verifying the iPhone baseband software. Powell also has a MySpace page up if you’d like to learn more about a guy who you can’t help but feel sorry for. And to complete the trifecta, here’s his Flickr page.

With all of the back and forth regarding the legality of Gizmodo’s purchase of the device, we should point out that Gizmodo editor John Herrman actually contacted Powell earlier today, saying that they were interested in giving the device back.

Here’s how Gizmodo described the conversation:

Gray Powell: Hello?

John Herrman: Is this Gray?

G: Yeah.

J: Hi, this is John Herrman from Gizmodo.com.

G: Hey!

J: You work at Apple, right?

G: Um, I mean I can’t really talk too much right now.

J: I understand. We have a device, and we think that maybe you misplaced it at a bar, and we would like to give it back.

G: Yeah, I forwarded your email [asking him if it was his iPhone], someone should be contacting you.

J: OK.

G: Can I send this phone number along?

J: [Contact information]

All in all, an absolutely wild day for Apple, Apple fans, tech fans, and gadget geeks in general. Unless we’re missing something here, this is by far the biggest and most severe Apple leak in the company’s history.

And poor Gray Powell, you kind of wanna buy the poor fellow a beer.

Related: There’s something fishy about Gizmodo’s iPhone tale

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10 Comments For This Post

  1. David Says:

    Look what it say’s on his myspace page under people I would like to meet….

    Steve Jobs

    He may get his wish.

  2. Blazemonkey Says:

    Maybe, if you count Steve Jerbs boot meeting his ass..

  3. Alexander Says:

    Steve Jobs engineered the whole thing. Well played, sir.

  4. Pasonia Says:

    I wonder if this whole story will end up becoming a next major joke in hell-holes like 4chan.

    If this incident somehow becomes yet another Internet meme I’m also gonna buy that fella a beer… =S

  5. berto Says:

    This was the most hilarious story written from this conundrum! Golf clap.

  6. Mark Says:

    Probably a viral marketing from Apple. Steve is known for using free advertisments. i wun be surprise if i see something different as the new iphone. this iphone although still pretty nice didn’t have the attention to details that you come to expect of apple

  7. Oscar Says:

    I know the standard practice is to post *any* available information around Apple leaks, but why publish his Fickr and Myspace?

  8. Pattaya Girls Says:

    I presume this guy will get fired or promoted :-)

  9. Steve K Says:

    Apple employees meet your new head of marketing, Gray Powell!

  10. Tony G. Says:

    Marketing genius. You can’t buy this kind of publicity. Well played, Apple.

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