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Apple asks Gizmodo to return lost iPhone prototype

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(Read caption) The Apple Store in midtown Manhattan. On Monday, Apple lawyers asked Gizmodo to return a test edition of a new Apple iPhone. Gizmodo says it will comply with the request.

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It was a rare breach of security for the famously zealous Apple development team: Earlier this month, the folks at the tech blog Gizmodo got their hands on what appears to be a test edition of a brand-new Apple iPhone. On Monday afternoon, Apple decided it wanted its lost iPhone back – and it didn't ask nicely.

"It has come to our attention that Gizmodo is currently in possession of a device that belongs to Apple," Apple attorney Bruce Sewell wrote in a terse email to Gizmodo director Brian Lam. "This letter constitutes a formal request that you return the device to Apple. Please let me know where to pick up the unit."

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According to Mr. Lam, Gizmodo will comply with Apple's request. "Happy to have you pick this thing up," Lam wrote to Sewell. "Was burning a hole in our pockets... Now that we definitely know it's not some knockoff, and it really is Apple's, I'm happy to see it returned to its rightful owner."

Lam added that he hoped Apple wouldn't fire the software engineer who misplaced the test edition of the iPhone. "I hope you take it easy on the kid who lost it," Lam wrote. "I don't think he loves anything more than Apple."

The exchange was the cap of a drama that consumed the tech world. As Monitor staffer Andrew Heining wrote yesterday, many bloggers initially greeted the news of the new iPhone with shock and skepticism.

"Spotting an Apple product in the wild before its release is so uncommon – and the market of spoofed photos so saturated – that initial reaction leaned toward the device pictured Saturday night on Engadget being a Chinese iPhone knock-off," Heining noted.

The iPhone was originally lost by Apple software engineer Gray Powell, who had been celebrating his 27th birthday at a bar in Redwood City, California. Powell left the phone behind in March; it was promptly found by another bar patron; weeks later, Gizmodo got word of the device, and paid $5,000 to get their hands on it.