I've been following the story of the lost iPhone 4G prototype since the story broke on April 19 in technology blog Gizmodo. In the early days after the incident, it appeared that Apple was taking it all in stride. It even appeared that they had a good sense of humor about the whole situation.
Last week the story took an ugly turn. Wired Magazine, among other news organizations, requested that the search warrant and other court documents pertaining to the case be unsealed. It appears that Apple has been pursuing criminal action against Brian Hogan (the young man who found the iPhone in question) and Jason Chen (the Gizmodo reporter who purchased the iPhone 4G from Hogan). Now, the San Mateo County Sheriff has seized all computers, hard drives, flash drives, digital cameras, and mobile phones from both Hogan and Chen. Furthermore, assuming Hogan and Chen are absolved of any wrongdoing, only then will they have the opportunity to get their seized property returned to them after "paying the necessary expenses incurred in its preservation."
Apple is claiming that they will suffer "huge" losses of income due to the release of the iPhone 4G specs. The concern is that if customers know that a new version of the iPhone is coming, then they won't purchase the current version, but wait until the new one comes out.
Hey Apple! We all know that you're going to update your products every 12-18 months! We know the new model is going to be more powerful, have more memory, and probably cost less than the current one. It's the same every time.
Here's the typical sequence of events:
- Apple gains a new fanboy.
- Fanboy goes out and buys his new iThing.
- 2 weeks later Steve Jobs stands on a stage in his black turtleneck and announces the release of the next generation iThing.
- Said fanboy says, "F#¢k! I just paid $300 for my iThing and now the new one is better and it costs $250. Apple, you screwed me!"
- Another 2 weeks go by and Apple fanboy realizes that he must have the new iThing after he sees that one of his friends got one, so he goes and buys the new one.
A Better Strategy
Apple would have been better off denying that the phone was a new iPhone. The buzz created by the rumors and mystery surrounding the device would more than make up for any lost sales. In fact many people, myself included, thought the device had been purposely planted by Apple to create such buzz. It wouldn't have been the first time that dubious tactics were used to created buzz for their products. The thought of a valuable prototype being allowed outside corporate offices for a night of drinking makes no sense at all. You want to keep something secret, you don't have people using it out in public.
Next time Apple wants to keep a new product secret, I might suggest they do their testing in a lab rather than the local bar. Don't go after they guys that broke the story of the secret that you failed to keep. Take a look in the mirror first, Mr. Jobs. There's an app for that.