Apple iPhone 4G: 5 lessons from the fallout

As the brouhaha winds down, what can we take away from the aftermath of Gizmodo's exclusive? Here are five things

It's been a crazy few days for the gadget blog Gizmodo, ever since the site published detailed information about a new iPhone prototype that may or may not be the next-generation iPhone. The device has now been returned to Apple, and some of the last bits of information about the handset, and the fallout from the debacle, are being reported.

So as the iPhone 4G news cycle winds down, what can we take away from the aftermath of Gizmodo's exclusive? Here are five things that come to mind:

iPhone 4G = Page Views Galore

The gadget blog received close to 11 million page views combined for its six Web pages of iPhone 4G coverage, according to Gizmodo's own numbers. That's a whole lot of eyeballs coming to Gizmodo in just three short days, and doesn't even count the visitors to its other Web pages. Those numbers mean the publicity and attention over the exclusive has more than paid for the $5,000 bounty the site paid to obtain the phone. Of course, there might be other bills to pay down the road over this scandal, such as...

Legal Fees

Jeff Bercovici over at DailyFinance wrote an interesting piece arguing that Apple has a strong case against Gizmodo and its parent company Gawker Media, should Cupertino decide to sue. Bercovici argues that the anonymous stranger who picked up the so-called iPhone 4G did not try hard enough to return the device to its rightful owner--Apple engineer Gray Powell--and that Gizmodo knowingly purchased stolen goods.

The argument goes something like this: the stranger failed to give his contact information to the management at the beer garden where the device was found, and the finder also failed to inform the police that he had the lost property. Instead, the stranger only called an Apple employee that Gizmodo described as a "middle-level customer service rep." Bercovici argues the finder did only "the absolute bare minimum necessary in order to be able to claim later that he tried to return the device." So this failure on the finder's part meant he was essentially trafficking in stolen goods, since Powell reportedly called the beer garden on several occasions to see if the device had been returned.

Finally, when the device came into Gizmodo's possession, it was up to the gadget blog to ensure that it was not receiving stolen goods, according to Bercovici. But Gizmodo reportedly failed to do its "due diligence" in this regard, and by Bercovici's account, the blog has been left open to a possible lawsuit.An iPhone 4G Can Get you on Good Morning America

It's not just tech journalists that went nuts over Gizmodo's iPhone 4G revelations. Mainstream media outlets like ABC's Good Morning America were also getting in on the iPhone action:

That's One Big Battery

Weak battery life has been one of the most oft-raised complaints from iPhone 3GS owners, and it looks like Apple may be tackling this problem, at least in part, by making a bigger battery. Gizmodo posted a teardown of Apple's secret prototype late Tuesday, and says that the battery makes up about 50 percent of the phone's innards. No word though on whether the phone's processor is an in-house Apple A4 chip as some rumors have suggested. Gizmodo said it would have been impossible to take a look at the device's chip without irreparably damaging the device components, something the gadget blog did not want to do.

This Was Not a Palace Leak, Most Likely

There are so many strange and unanswered questions about this iPhone 4G debacle: Why didn't the device have any type of password protection on it, and why was it away from Apple's campus in the first place? It would be easy to think this was some sort of stealth PR plot, but that's all hogwash, according to Gizmodo. The gadget site says it would be ridiculous to think that Apple would ever want to go along with such a ploy, since Cupertino stood to gain nothing from this leak. As Gizmodo rightly points out, "Does anyone really think the iPhone 4 wouldn't have been a huge story on its own in June?"

So there you have it, five things we can take away from the final hours of the iPhone 4G fallout. But there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered if, as expected, Apple launches a new iPhone model in April.

Questions like, What will the final device look like? Will it retain the new, boxier look the prototype had? Is the prototype truly the next iPhone or will it lose some of the reported specs such as a front-facing camera? Will the new device have an Apple-made processor? And, will Gizmodo's live bloggers ever be allowed near an Apple event again? We'll most likely have to wait until June to find out the answers to these questions.

Connect with Ian on Twitter (@ianpaul).

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Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
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