Apple Can't Keep Its Hands on the iPhone

For a company that practically oozes smart, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) apparently employs more than its share of dummies. News.com reports that someone with access left a prototype iPhone at a San Francisco bar last month. The handset was still missing as of this writing.

I know what you're thinking. Haven't I heard this story before? Yessir, you have. Last year, Gizmodo paid $5,000 for an iPhone 4 prototype lost in a California bar. The ensuing brouhaha ended with Apple getting its device back, but not before prosecutors weighed levying charges against Gizmodo editor Jason Chen. Now, the iEmpire is out another prototype, possibly the forthcoming iPhone 5.

News.com says the handset went missing at a tequila lounge called Cava 22. Police helped track the device using GPS, but a search of the house to where the prototype was supposedly taken yielded no results. Apple employees offered cash to the man living there but he refused, saying he had no knowledge of the missing handset.

Hey, have you heard the one about the engineer and the iPhone?
It almost sounds like a bad joke. You know, an Apple employee walks into a bar ... only this punchline comes with a police search, a massive payoff allegedly offered and refused, and a tight-lipped Apple quietly plotting a new Jedi mind trick to make us forget the incident ever happened. ("This isn't the iPhone you're looking for.")

I'm only half-joking when I say I think the gaffe could kick off a whole new line of black ops Apple products:

  • The iAnklet with built-in GPS, to track testers wherever they may be.
  • The iShocker, to deliver a small wake-up bolt when the handset is put down.
  • The iSoberizer with an edible sensor, to force nausea and call a cab when detecting alcohol in the bloodstream.

Sound draconian? Perhaps, but Apple competes in a tough market occupied by well-funded competitors HTC, Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) , Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) , and Samsung.

Mix in a well-known predisposition for jealously guarding secrets, and it's incidents like these that have to make both new Apple Chairman Steve Jobs and new CEO Tim Cook crazy. Expect them to take it seriously.

Do you agree? Disagree? Please weigh in using the comments box below. And if you're interested in more iPhone analysis, be sure to add Apple to your watchlist.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Google+ or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Research In Motion. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, as well as creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (9) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On September 01, 2011, at 6:11 PM, joshua4511111 wrote:

    Being the rivalry and rewards of 'being first' in the cell phone market and considering the amount of money invested and riding on new releases, new products, new gadgets, etc. I can appreciate the need for 'secrecy' or keeping an eagle eye on ones goodies. New releases (like the iphone 5 may LOOK like 'small potatoes'.. but those small potatoes represent millions and millions of dollars and tons of time, energy and innovation.

  • Report this Comment On September 01, 2011, at 7:46 PM, idahogeo wrote:

    The lost iPhone from last year was a heavily covered event; one that got Apple plenty of free advertising and promotional hype. Perhaps this is wasn't an accident? Or maybe I've been watching too much Mad Men...

  • Report this Comment On September 01, 2011, at 9:18 PM, softgen wrote:

    Why everyone think highly about Apple, put it this way Apple was lucky, in the past no rivalry, but this time is totaly different picture. Apple thinks by going to China can help Apple servive another round. The only fans are in USA, hope those USA fans will not change their mind.

  • Report this Comment On September 01, 2011, at 9:36 PM, jimmy4040 wrote:

    Geez Tim, don't you know a publicity stunt when you see one?

  • Report this Comment On September 01, 2011, at 9:52 PM, jesterisdead wrote:

    Coincidentally right around the time that Samsung announces the Galaxy S II. Touted as the "iPhone killer" by everyone. ...and Apple happens to be suing Samsung for copyright infringement.

    iPhone 5? Whatever. People will already have a faster, bigger camera, bigger battery, AMOLED beauty in just a few weeks. The US finally is getting the better phones that Europe has had all along. Who wants to wait for an iPhone5?

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2011, at 12:39 AM, MaxTheTerrible wrote:

    I actually agree with idahogeo & jimmy4040 - this whole story does smell like a publicity stunt - no more, no less.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2011, at 8:35 AM, Onigato wrote:

    Old proverb, Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action. No tech company allows their "next big thing" to leave the labs except under very strongly guarded measure UNLESS they actually WANT it to get leaked. As tight-lipped as Apple has tended to be about product demos and releases, this kind of thing was a publicity stunt the first time, this time, and every time it happens in the future.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2011, at 11:10 AM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    @jimmy4040,

    >>Geez Tim, don't you know a publicity stunt when you see one?

    Indeed I do, having previously been in the PR business for about 15 years.

    This smells different to me. It smells like panic. Read the CNET story. Were this *really* a stunt, you'd see a lot more unnamed sources "close to Apple" discussing the incident. Instead, there's a sense this is the last thing Apple wanted to see in print. I could be wrong, of course.

    Thanks for writing and Foolish best,

    Tim (TMFMileHigh and @milehighfool on Twitter)

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2011, at 9:50 PM, TMFTypeoh wrote:

    ("This isn't the iPhone you're looking for.")

    HAHAHAHAAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAH

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