Apple giveth, and Apple breaketh down the door to taketh away

So. On the day I posted my last vomiting of ill-regarded words, Gizmodo lights up the technosphere with video, photos, description, drafting illustrations, ¼-scale clay mockups and an origami version of the semi-top-secret-except-we-already-knew-most-of-the-features-anyway iPhone 4G. (If you’ve been stuck reinstalling OS X on your Hackintosh the last 10 days—or was that just me—click here for the goods.) For those whose blood sugar has crashed and are unable to click on the Gizmodo link, let me summarize:

  1. On March 18, 2010, Apple engineer Gray Powell took a disguised prototype iPhone 4G to a German bierhaus in Redwood, California, to test the phone’s new Fraulein Attraction Processor that Apple had scored in its acquisition of P.A. Semiconductor.
  2. After viel bier, Powell stumbled home or into a cab or, more likely, to a tattoo parlor to get a third “Zune Suxxorz Ballz” tat.
  3. A dude (now identified as 21-year-old Brian “Terry Bollea” Hogan) at the bar found the iPhone and, after waiting around for its owner to return (so he claims), took it home to spoon.
  4. The next morning, The Hulkster discovered the iPhone had been remotely bricked. It was then that he noticed the phone felt different than a standard issue 3GS. Sure enough, the shell was nothing but a clever ruse hiding the flat-bottomed girl within.
  5. Powell called the bar. No phone. Full-on freak out commenced.
  6. A friend of The Hulkster, possibly Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, called an Apple support number and mumbled something about having a prototype iPhone with “sweet nunchuck skills.dis54” The lowest-level Apple minions hung up.
  7. Beefcake allegedly dialed up some tech sites and got Gizmodo to cough up five large for the non-working but still dissectible prototype.
  8. After much poking and prodding, Gizmodo published a couple of articles and videos of the phone. Nerd bowels across the world spontaneously, simultaneously evacuated.
  9. Apple sent a letter (demanded by Gizmodo) requesting their phone back. Gizmodo complied.
  10. Gizmodo editor Jason Chen’s house is raided by The Man at the request of Apple. No, not at the request of Apple. Yes, at the request of Apple. No, at the request of some guy in a black turtleneck named Steffan Jobes. The police actually broke down Chen’s door while he was at dinner. And nothing harshes an In-N-Out buzz like finding the fuzz going through your wife’s dainties upon your return. Trust me.
  11. The Internet and Jon Stewart called B.S.

And there you go.

I understand Apple being peeved that their top-secret (to them) device got plastered all over the net. And I understand that the legality of both selling the device to Gizmodo and Gizmodo buying the device are a bit nebulous. But come on, Apple. The only people you’re harming in your little witch-hunt are yourselves. Your guy goofed. Period. Should The Hulkster have tried a little harder to get the phone back? Sure. But maybe if you hadn’t bricked the thing and instead stuck a non-defeatable alert screen on the phone with, here’s an idea, a contact number on it, things might’ve gone your way.

Should Gizmodo have paid money for it? Is that what journalists do these days? Heck if I know. I’m just glad the five grand went toward and iPhone and not another shot of a stumbling Lohan. And in an age where most news is spewed out with equal parts snark and venom (Venark? Snenom? Bennifer?), it’s hard to get worked up about a journo fattening some guy’s PayPal account to hand over a device that, oh wait, an Apple employee left sitting on a bar stool in a public place.

So yeah. Maybe Apple could just chill out a bit. Not like we didn’t already know about the front-facing camera or higher-res screen. And is anyone not going to get the 4G now that they’ve seen the new form factor? I’m actually more likely to trade up now that I’ve witnessed the practical glory of the flat back. Always did seem dumb to have a curved back on a phone with a touch interface. You know, because it’s nice to be able to set it down on a table or sherpa and be able to scroll without wobbling. Little things.

Anyway, Apple, please, go back to being the Susan Powter lookalike with the high-waisted orange shorts and less of a Red Forman drone. And me, well, I’ll start spitting out these analogies before Stewart steals all my best material. Well, probably not.

Later,

Fox

Comments closed
    • oldog
    • 10 years ago

    I think the most fascinating thing about this entire affair is that Giz goes into an Apple frenzy every time a new product is released.

    I wonder if that will change?

    • fredsnotdead
    • 10 years ago

    Steve: We’re not getting enough buzz about the 4G. We need more publicity.
    Nameless Minion: But we’ve leaked to all the usual channels…
    Steve: It’s not enough. We need more, like when that Chinese guy stole a prototype. Man, you can’t buy publicity like that!
    Nameless Minion: Uh, Steve, the guy ended up killing himself.
    Steve: Hey, you’ve got to accept casualties, it’s a cost of doing business. If you don’t learn that, you’ll always be a nameless minion. But maybe you’re right, it was a little too much.
    Nameless Minion: We could arrange to “lose” a prototype…

    • Homerr
    • 10 years ago

    Aren’t a lot of people making claims about ‘buying stolen property’ making some big assumptions? 1) That the phone was stolen, lost =/=stolen; 2) that Gizmodo knew that the phone was legit (as in not a hoax, a decoy, or some Chinese “iFone” knock-ff).

    Sure, $5k is a lot to pay if it hadn’t been the real deal, and probably Gizmodo got to at least look at it before handing over the cash. But they presumably didn’t dissect it and see all the Apple internals until they had it in their hands and the sale had been done.

    I agree with Fox that pretty much everyone here screwed up in some part, but treating this like someone snuck into Apple and stole it off Jobs’ desk and then sold it is a joke.

      • dpaus
      • 10 years ago

      A joke? If you were the guy who had his front door kicked in and all his computers (i.e., “means of making a living” not to mention “treasure trove of highly confidential contacts”) confiscated, you may not find it very funny.

        • Homerr
        • 10 years ago

        I think we agree to an extent, I’m saying that treating this as a criminal matter is a joke. Stopping at #9 in Jason Fox’s list seems like it was enough, #10 seems to go over the line.

    • FuturePastNow
    • 10 years ago

    This just in: when you commit a felony (paying $5000 for known stolen property), a judge just might give the cops a warrant to break down your door and take stuff.

      • designerfx
      • 10 years ago

      really? known stolen? I’d doubt that.

      • Corrado
      • 10 years ago

      Does it count as stolen if you call the KNOWN OWNER of the device twice and they tell you they don’t want it?

      Lost != stolen. Apple wiped the guys contact info remotely over night. They never expected to get it back, otherwise they wouldn’t have remote bricked it.

      • DrCR
      • 10 years ago

      Unfortunately the warrant was invalid as it was against a journalist. Not only is the information attained immiscible in court, it was a criminal action by the police.

    • pogsnet
    • 10 years ago
    • squngy
    • 10 years ago

    Actually, if I understand correctly, Gizmodo DID NOT BUY THE PHONE.
    (which is likely to become important)

    As I understand it, they *[

    • PeterD
    • 10 years ago

    The phone was not stolen.
    Apple thicks some noise about the affair will give it free publicity.
    Could backfire.

    • Buzzard44
    • 10 years ago

    Guy finds broken phone with no way to identify the owner. Guy sells broken phone. I’m really not seeing the foul here.

    If I drop my phone somewhere, and there’s no way to get it to work, I don’t expect whatever Joe who picks it up to start a crusade to get the phone back to me. Might as well sell it.

    Apple screwed up by letting one of their guys lose the phone. If they want to go after anybody, go after the guy who lost the phone.

      • Decelerate
      • 10 years ago

      If they don’t have the identity of the owner, how the heck did they manage to post his facebook page?

      Frankly with the facts I have now I’m on the fence, but I don’t see how Apple is necessarily wrong in this affair.

      Popcorn, coutch, waiting for the next blurb of news.

        • Corrado
        • 10 years ago

        He had access to the contact info for a few hours before Apple bricked it. If you find a phone at 1am, and see the guys name/number/facebook, and think ‘In the morning I’ll try and get him’ and then in the morning its bricked, what do you do? I didn’t write his info down cuz I figured it would still be there in the morning for me to get it.

          • Decelerate
          • 10 years ago

          But see, you have it (you remember his facebook page). Simply msg him and tell him you got his phone.

          If you didn’t remember you wouldn’t have his facebook page

    • danazar
    • 10 years ago

    It’s sad how few geeks out there understand the law.

    In many jurisdictions, if you give money to someone for property you know is not theirs, you are *[

      • eitje
      • 10 years ago

      I think the concern I have is that the search warrant may not have been valid.

      I believe for most people, however, it’s easier to talk about the stealing-or-not part of the story.

      • Cuhulin
      • 10 years ago

      There is no need to insult the readers of this board about not understanding the law. A lot of us do.

      However, to say that this isn’t Apple doing something, because it was the police who acted, allegedly pursuant to a search warrant, misses the entire point of people’s complaints. No, Steve Jobs does not control the police. Yet, there is no reason to believe that the underfunded, overworked police have nothing else to do but look for possible crimes that no one cares about. It is highly doubtful that the San Mateo authorities would have done anything at all without a complaint having been filed, and then followed up, by one or more Apple heavyweights. The fact that the warrant was executed at night, when it does not appear to allow for that, is further reason to understand that the heavy hand of Apple provided the pressure to do this.

      No amount if PR misdirection can hide that.

        • Voldenuit
        • 10 years ago

        Hear, hear!

        Very eloquently and logically put.

        • ludi
        • 10 years ago

        /[

          • SPOOFE
          • 10 years ago

          /[

            • ludi
            • 10 years ago

            Zzhhhhhiiiiiinnnngggggg!

        • Convert
        • 10 years ago

        I would still blame the police, no matter how heavy handed Apple got in the matter. It’s their responsibility to follow the law appropriately.

        Apple can yell and scream all they want; the police should not be overreacting because a corporation told them to. If you think Apple shouldn’t have pressed the issue then I obviously “disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”, because it was their right to do so.

        There is no proof that Apple pressed the issue to the level you are alluding to either. Perhaps it’s just a over eager department trying to justify their existence. Whether or not that backfired has yet to be determined.

          • davisbd23
          • 10 years ago

          Just too many inaccuracies on the OP’s part for me to ignore.

          q[< (It's sad how few geeks out there understand the law... if you give money to someone for property you know is not theirs, you are purchasing stolen property) <]q And in California, it is not. Possession of stolen property is a very difficult crime for most of the public to wrap their heads around. The title seems pretty straight forward, but it is most definitely not the case. In order for someone to be in possession of "stolen" property according to the California penal code, that piece of property *MUST* be entered into CLETS with a unique serial number as stolen property. Period. Until then, it is lost property, which falls under a totally different set of laws which are more of "good samaritan suggestions" than anything. Second, q[< (the police were acting on a validly issued search warrant) <]q That’s still for the courts to decide. California law states that Law Enforcement, acting on what they believe to technically be a valid warrant (i.e. an affidavit was submitted to a judge, and said judge signed off on warrant even though said judge SHOULD NOT HAVE). Police kick in door believing that they had a good warrant, later to find out it was technically an unlawful warrant. Evidence obtained this way may or may not be suppressed as the police executed a warrant in “Good Faith”, hence the Good Faith Exception to the exclusionary rule of the 4th amendment. The California Shield Law seems to fit the bill to protect online bloggers based on precedent, but again, I’m not a judge so that’s for the courts to decide. q[< (breaking down the door is actually a fairly common police procedure) <]q Hollywood makes it look like an everyday occurrence, but based on my experience (lots of Law Enforcement in my past), its really not that common… at all. Unless there are exigent circumstances, officer safety concerns or some other circumstances requiring a forced entry, kicking in doors rarely happen. q[< (Apple isn't pursuing this action, the San Mateo police are) <]q The San Mateo police are… nope. It’s the REACT team, which the San Mateo Police are apart of. REACT is funded by numerous high tech companies in the Bay Area, of which Apple is one of.

            • Convert
            • 10 years ago

            I don’t think you meant to reply to me, at any rate..

            q[

      • Lans
      • 10 years ago

      Why I am so “against” Apple? It is because of:

      /[<9. Apple sent a letter (demanded by Gizmodo) requesting their phone back. Gizmodo complied.

      10. Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's house is raided by The Man at the request of Apple. No, not at the request of Apple. Yes, at the request of Apple. No, at the request of some guy in a black turtleneck named Steffan Jobes. The police actually broke down Chen's door while he was at dinner. And nothing harshes an In-N-Out buzz like finding the fuzz going through your wife's dainties upon your return. Trust me.<]/ Also you are assuming the claim "purchasing stolen property" holds water. I did find this via Google search: "/[

      • ZGradt
      • 10 years ago

      They’re using the “Finder’s keepers, losers weepers” defense.

      • dolemitecomputers
      • 10 years ago

      They didn’t pay for the phone. They paid for access to it which involved photographing the phone and recording video of it.

      • clone
      • 9 years ago

      the police didn’t need to break down the door, anymore than a person need be tackled by police, handcuffed for jaywalking……..they showed up after hours and break down the door…… .this isn’t a die hard drug house in possession of $500,000 in drug coin the cops were after….. it was a phone Gizmodo openly discussed having.

      was he really going to flush it down the toilet?…. lol.

      your whole attitude explains why the public has problems with the police and why Apple’s rep is happily in my eyes eroding down to a level of reality from the idiot fantasy status it used to have….. good job Steve show us who you really are….. attack Adobe in hypocritical fashion some more.

    • Kulith
    • 10 years ago

    I still believe that all of Apple’s “leaks” are 100% controlled and manipulated.

    So Ipad developers had to work with an iPad chained to a table before it was released, with drapes covering the windows…and this guy loses a prototype in a bar? BS

    Apple uses leaks for marketing and to promote hype about their latest device imo.

      • Farting Bob
      • 10 years ago

      I also thought it was controlled like other apple “leaks” in the past. Right up until the police get involved. That kind of suggests that Apple did not want this phone to be left in a bar.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 10 years ago

        The police can get involved of their own volition in a criminal matter. If it was a civil matter only of some sort, say a civil lawsuit, then Apple would have to be involved.

        Or if you want to believe that Apple ‘ordered’ the REACT police to get involved, I would get double-conspiratorial and say that Apple ok’d it to make their story look more legit and less like a leak.

    • Prototyped
    • 10 years ago

    I’m hoping this stuff as well as Jobs’ listing against the Adobe windmill and the Google windmill will finally help to lift the RDF a little bit. (So far, listing against the Microsoft windmill has been easy — Microsoft’s a big, soft target.) Maybe a little ill-will is a good thing, and will make people stop halo-fying everything that that company does and maybe, just maybe, inject a little bit of objectivity into perception.

    Good PR doesn’t last forever, and people remember the bad things longer than they remember the good ones.

    • DrDillyBar
    • 10 years ago

    That Daily Show clip was excellent. 🙂

    • BiffStroganoffsky
    • 10 years ago

    I thought F.A.P. was invented by Totally Imaginary & Titillating Silicon(e)?

    • Convert
    • 10 years ago

    Uhg, this whole “stolen” iPhone thing is getting silly.

    I don’t blame Apple at all for getting the authorities involved. Now if the authorities did something bad, by say granting a search warrant when one shouldn’t have been, then fine. In that case the cops did a no-no, not Apple.

    It’s far too early to tell whether or not the phone was stolen or if it was simply left at the bar on accident. The resulting investigation will find that out.

    Also the story seems to keep changing as time goes on, last I heard Brian did NOT contact Apple, only that a friend offered to try to.

      • potatochobit
      • 10 years ago

      exactly, when I filed my car burglary report the California police got right on it. they went over to that drug dealers house and totally searched everything!

        • Convert
        • 10 years ago

        I can only assume you are being sarcastic.

        The “digital task force” or whatever nonsense name they use is solely to blame for any actions that they have taken.

        Apple doesn’t control the police.

          • BlackStar
          • 10 years ago

          Yet.

            • Convert
            • 10 years ago

            If that day ever comes, Apple won’t be very high on my list of companies to be worried about.

          • nanoflower
          • 10 years ago

          Except for the fact that Steve Jobs sits on the committee that guides this very task force. Now, that doesn’t mean that he called them and asked them to intervene but it sure raises a few questions. Especially since Apple had the phone back by that point so the only reason for going after the computers is information and intimidation. The information they could have gotten via other means (a simple subpoena might have done the trick.)

            • Convert
            • 10 years ago

            q[http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2010/04/27/behind-the-iphone-raid-react/tab/article/)<]§ So conceivably the task force could act favorably to companies that are part of the committee solely to keep them as members so that they can continue to get funding. Unlikely, but still possible I suppose. Then again it's California after all, if Apple jumps ship because the cops didn't do something illegal for them then there are plenty of others to fill their spot. Also due to members of REACT not being comprised of a single entity there is no reason for anyone to hold any loyalties.

        • Corrado
        • 10 years ago

        Did you have the name and address of the guy that put pictures up on a popular website showing him taking your one of a kind car apart, telling you where he got it from? I’m sure they’d be willing to go right over there.

    • Shinare
    • 10 years ago

    I thought the phone was briked AFTER the dude found out who the owner of the phone was because his facebook profile was open on the phone. A simple call to apple’s switchboard asking for said employee would have been most effective at returning the device had that really been the intention of the “hulkster”. *shrug* apple is still a steaming pile of a company to have reacted in such a vindictive manor.

    PS> Gizmodo should have never outted the apple employee’s name if they wanted to pretend they didn’t know enough about the owner to return it. Well, they shouldn’t have outted the employee anyway.

    • Voldenuit
    • 10 years ago

    Steve Jobs needs to DIACW (Die In A Cancer Ward) for this. In fact, I’m pretty sure there are plenty of people in said cancer ward that deserve their misfortune a lot less than he would.

    If Jason feels as disgusted over Apple’s bullsh-t shenanigans as I think he does, how about turning the Machole into an Android Nook? Or WebOS platter? I bet there is a larger target audience for the tech geekery of these devices on this site than for the polished consumer-targeted fare from Cupertino.

    • bdwilcox
    • 10 years ago

    /[<"On the other hand, pursuing legal action is kind of a dick move. :-/"<]/ This wasn't just a legal action (like a lawsuit), this was a criminal complaint where a frickin' raid was conducted on someone's private residence! As far as I'm concerned, the jackboots who carried this out should have little death's heads on their collar with Apples instead of skulls.

    • steelcity_ballin
    • 10 years ago

    Apple are complete douches for this. I hate Apple, I will never own a single one of their products. The entire culture disgusts me. I wish I could fight Steve Jobs. Internet rage!

      • xtalentx
      • 10 years ago

      I am usually the voice of reason in almost any situation but I completely feel the same way you do when it comes to Apple.

    • d0g_p00p
    • 10 years ago

    Why do people keep saying the phone was stolen? Dude who found it tried several times to return the phone to Apple. If Apple did not brick the phone immediately, maybe it could have been returned by, I don’t know calling some of the contacts listed to find the owner.

    Everyone I know keeps a ICE number listed in case of emergency or if their phone is lost. I also would have sold the phone for well over $5K. But that’s just me.

      • BiffStroganoffsky
      • 10 years ago

      From what I read, wait staff actually found the phone in a chair next to the guy and asked him if it was his. He took it though he knew it wasn’t (this would be the legal sticking point). The other part of the story is that the engineer who lost it returned to the bierhaus several times to see if anyone found it and turned it in.

      • XaiaX
      • 10 years ago

      One, the guy didn’t actually try to return it. One of his friends called applecare.

      Two, in California, that /[

        • MadManOriginal
        • 10 years ago

        Here is something that’s been said in passing but deserves some focus: Is it ‘theft’ if they willingly and without question return the item to the owner upon request prior to any police involvement? And in that case, what exactly was Gizmodo paying for if they did not attempt to retain the ‘stolen’ property? A: the ‘exclusive story and information’ as they said.

          • ludi
          • 10 years ago

          Generally, once you’ve knowingly paid money for an item defined by law as stolen, UNLESS acting in a appropriate law enforcement agent or as the rightful owner or an agent thereof, you can be charged with taking possession of stolen property. The law has to be pretty narrow on that definition, else any two-bit fence would print up and carry a batch of business cards indicating his association with the Lost Property Restoration Agency (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Five Finger Discount, Inc.) and use them as a stack of get-out-of-jail-free cards.

          That said, there’s usually some discretion on both the part of the police and the district attorney on whether to apply for a search warrant, make arrests, and prosecute the case based on the total circumstances and probable strength of the evidence.

            • PeterD
            • 10 years ago

            Apple should punish the one who lost the phone, instead of the one who took or bought it.
            It’s as simple as that.

    • WillBach
    • 10 years ago

    Love John. I feel kind of torn about the police action. On one hand, Gizmodo paid $5000 for a stolen product. On the other hand, pursuing legal action is kind of a dick move. :-/

    • sweatshopking
    • 10 years ago

    john is funny.

      • SomeOtherGeek
      • 10 years ago

      Very funny!

    • Sargent Duck
    • 10 years ago

    I’m reminded of that 1984 Apple commercial with Big Brother. How ironic that Apple has turned into Big Brother with the police raid on the Gizmodo editors house.

      • Rakhmaninov3
      • 10 years ago

      LOL nice. Hadn’t thought of it that way.

      Of course I’ve only seen the commercial on YouTube and still had 6 months to go in the womb when it first came out 🙂

    • dpaus
    • 10 years ago

    Not everyone at Apple is stupid, so /[

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