When prototypes are lostBig news over the last few days has been a 4G iPhone prototype supposedly discovered in a bar and ending up in the hands of the guys at Gizmodo. Skeptics abound as to whether the whole thing is legit, whether the phone is the real deal and just skepticism and cynicism in general.

No matter the elements of truth or fiction, no marketer could have dreamed up a better supply of buzz. Or did they….?

Apple apparently made it known the phone was lost, there are indications that it is genuine and their behaviour’s consistent with wanting to get their prototype returned to them. There’s even a story with lots of detail about how it was lost in the firs place, and how they asked for it back. But seriously, are we to believe that a company which is known for legendary efforts to prevent leaks is gonna prep a prototype for testing in the field, send him out with it on his birthday and then not massively freak out when the worst leak in the company’s history happens?

That’s not only a little out of character start to finish, it’s downright schizophrenic.

Not only that, but they haven’t hit Gizmodo with a gag order or any other sort of demand for silence. Surely anyone who went to that amount of trouble to disguise the equipment would at the very least be laying charges of theft. The Gizmodo guys took the thing apart, so add destruction of property to the list of charges.

Just how much of this whole scenario is genuine accident and how much is carefully orchestrated pr exercise is up for debate. Given what I’ve read so far, my money is on the latter, and a lot of the peanut gallery is at pains to point out the holes and inconsistencies in the whole story but still, I’m sure a lot more people have heard (and followed up on) the new phone then a straightforward unveiling at a press conference would achieve. Either way, kudos to Apple for making the launch of their next gen phone a PR success.