By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
September 3, 2011


Another Apple employee loses an iPhone prototype in a bar. I smell a movie script. 

The tech press is never happier than when it’s in hot pursuit of the next Apple (AAPL) iPhone. Almost any clue will do — a purloined case design, a blurry factory photo, a leaked production estimate from a sketchy Asian news source.

That’s what made last year’s saga of the prototype iPhone 4 — lost in a bar and sold to a Gizmodo editor whose house was raided and his computers seized — so irresistible.

The story of the iPhone 5 that broke this week hasn’t got those kind of legs, but it’s not without its charms.

My favorite details:

1. Cava22. The San Francisco tequila lounge where the device was lost serves a mean lime-marinated shrimp ceviche. (CNET)
2. The booze. The owner of the bar told CNET: “I guess I have to make my drinks a little less strong.”
3. Find-My-iPhone. It worked, to a degree. Apple traced the missing device to a two-story house in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood (CNET) that turned out to be in Ingleside (SFWeekly)
4. “Priceless” That’s what Apple gave the San Francisco Police Department as the value of the missing item (CNET)
5. The cops. The cash-strapped SFPD thought the incident of sufficient importance to assign four plainclothes officers to the case. (SFWeekly)
6. The search. The owner of the house — one Sergio Calderón, 22 — allowed his home to be thoroughly tossed without asking for a search warrant or to see some identification. (SFWeekly)
7. The potted plants.
 The real police waited politely outside while two Apple security guys conducted the search, offered Calderón a $300 reward, made vague threats about illegal aliens, and left a business card that could be traced back to Apple (SFWeekly)
8. The hard guy
. The LinkedIn page (since removed) of Anthony “Tony” Colon — the Apple detective who led the search — listed his specialties as threat assessment, counter terrorism, executive protection and site security surveys. (SF Weekly)
9. The subterfuge. The SFPD was able to keep the department out of the story — at least for a few hours — by telling the press that it had no report any search or even of a missing device. (Business Insider)
10. Call central casting. The name of the police lieutenant who finally owned up to the SFPD’s role in the matter — admitting that at Apple’s request no crime report was filed — was Troy Dangerfield. (SFWeekly)

You couldn’t make this stuff up.

And what happened to the missing iPhone? Is it still at large? Did Tony Colon manage to track it down? Apple, not surprisingly, isn’t saying.

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