iPhone 4G intrigue
Silicon Valley has been in a tizz for the last 48 hours about whether the next generation of the iPhone has escaped Apple's clutches and gone into the wild.
Over the weekend, the gadget site Engadget published photos of the device in question taken by an un-named person.
On Monday, rival site Gizmodo upped the ante by reporting that it had the phone itself and posted a swathe of images and a video.
Both sites reported that the phone was found in a bar. Gourmet Haus Staudt, a German specialty store and beer garden in Redwood City, must be doing cartwheels over the amount of free publicity it has received.
The site has now said that Apple has been in contact to ask for the return of the lost handset, and asserts that this proves that the device was the real deal.
"Sacre bleu!" I hear you cry. "What a tale of intrigue - and all in the week that Apple delivers its latest earnings!"
When I spoke to long-time Apple analyst Van Baker, who is a vice president of research at Gartner, he could hardly hide his amusement:
"Stuff like this happens all the time, it is just a bigger deal with Apple because they are known to be so secretive and the fan-boys and fan-girls just love to crack a story on Apple.
"It just adds to the buzz that always seems to surround Apple products. At the end of the day, if this is an Apple device, it is a prototype at best and represents a logical evolution in terms of features you would expect in the next iPhone. But I have very little faith that this is what the end product will look like."
The features the blogosphere has reported as being included on the iPhone 4G are a front-facing camera, a smaller screen, higher resolution and a larger battery.
Gizmodo said "the back is said to be entirely flat, made of either glass (more likely) or ceramic or shiny plastic in order for the cell signal to poke through".
All the industry speculation is that Apple will take the wraps off its next iPhone at the Worldwide Developer Conference in the summer; that's been normal timing for the company with the last couple of releases.
Another analyst told me he believes all this attention on the iPhone will negatively affect the iPad.
"It may mean some people might change their mind about buying an iPad and hold out instead for the iPhone which will be out in the summer."
While the focus the last few days has been on whether or not the device is the real McCoy, Mr Enderle expressed some disquiet about the poor engineer at the heart of the drama:
"Steve [Jobs] is known to have a very low threshold for these kinds of mistakes and you have to have some sympathy for the employee who dropped the phone. It is not often you are in danger of losing your job when you lose a phone."
The blogosphere and the Twittersphere have gone into overdrive on the subject. The most biting comment came @Bauart who tweeted that "Bill Gates tried leaving his new Microsoft "Kin" phone at a bar... It's still there".