San Francisco police have confirmed that they did, in fact, help Apple in searching the house, car and computer of a city resident for a lost iPhone 5 prototype -- without finding anything.
After the story broke last week of an iPhone 5 prototype left in a bar -- echoing a similar episode last year involving an iPhone 4 prototype -- police at first said they had no knowledge or reports of such a search.
The police now say that as many as four officers joined several Apple representatives in searching the home of Sergio Calderon, 22, who lives in the Bernal Heights area. Police Lt. Troy Dangerfield said that while officers stayed outside, Apple employees asked Calderon for permission to search, did so, found nothing, and left.
Calderon denies any knowledge of the prototype.
'Una Mas, Please'
Calderon told SF Weekly that six people, all wearing badges, visited his home in July, and none said they were Apple employees. Two of the six entered his house and one of those offered him $300, no questions asked, for the return of the prototype.
He also said they identified themselves as SFPD, and that one of the visitors questioned the immigration status of his family members in the house.
Calderon got a phone number from one of the investigators, which turned out to be one Anthony Colon, an Apple employee.
Initially, SFPD spokesman Officer Albie Esparza told SF Weekly that "we don't have any record of any such investigation going on at this point." But the police amended that on Friday, saying some officers had helped with the search, but no report had been filed. The police did not offer other details, such as exactly when the search took place or if there had been clear identification of who was from Apple and who were police.
The device was reportedly left in Cava 22, a Mexican-style lounge in San Francisco's Mission District that, according to its website, offers "live Mariachi music and margaritas that make you want to say, 'Una mas, please.' "
Engineers and Prototypes
Representatives from Apple have declined to comment. The new iPhone model is expected to be released sometime this fall, possibly in late September or early October.
Using the device's remote transmission of its location, Apple apparently traced the prototype to the single-family home.
Last year, an iPhone 4 prototype was left in a bar in Redwood City, Calif., by Apple engineer Robert Gray Powell. Two men were charged last month for a misdemeanor of selling the device to the Gizmodo blog, and an arraignment is expected soon. Gizmodo has not been charged.
California laws treat use of property that is known to be lost, when the owner is known, as theft.
Michael Gartenberg, Research Director at the Gartner Group, said this second episode of a lost iPhone prototype probably won't damage Apple's reputation, and that its primary value for the public is entertainment.
In fact, he said, the huge interest in the missing prototype shows why Apple is such a successful company.
"Engineers from other companies leave prototypes in places all the time," he said. "If it wasn't an Apple phone, no one would be talking about it."