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Is This Your Next iPhone?

It’s one of those coincidences that you’re more likely to read about in a novel or see in a movie—and maybe “suspension of disbelief” lets you go along with it, but here’s the apparently deal: It looks like someone connected with Apple took a fourth-generation iPhone prototype out into the wild for a spin…then accidentally left it at a bar in Redwood City, where it was snapped up by erstwhile—or at least entrepreneurial—tech enthusiast. And although the phone was remotely de-activated so folks couldn’t get a look at the software, the tech blog Gizmodo has somehow obtained and disassembled the device…and finds specs that may give iPhone fans a serious case of envy.

The device itself was largely camouflaged inside an iPhone 3GS case so it wouldn’t appear very out-of-the-ordinary in the wild, however, the case is slimmer than a 3GS and features a flat back that’s likely either glass or aluminum, probably to improve reception on the devices’ internal radios. The prototype also features a front-facing video camera (presumably to enable video chat), a larger forward-facing camera, and a second microphone (most likely to enable noise cancellation features). The prototype also features a higher resolution display than current iPhones, possibly confirming reports that future iPhones would have 960 by 460-pixel widescreen displays. Like the iPad, the device also uses a micro-sim rather than a standard phone sim. The device also features a number of Apple-labeled internal components and a larger battery than the current iPhone.

The prototype’s software had been remotely disabled before Gizmodo was able to examine the device, but its source claims it was running iPhone OS 4.0 before Apple officially announced the operating system last week. The device is recognized as an iPhone when connected to a computer, and by Apple’s iTunes and Xcode software.

Daring Fireball‘s has indicated he believes the prototype is a genuine Apple phone—one that “Apple is very interested in getting back.” Gruber also unearthed an Apple patent filing for radio-invisible ceramic enclosures.

As always, any information on unannounced devices and services should be taken with a grain of salt: in this industry, many products that do get official announcements never make it to retailers shelves, or appear in forms so altered that they’re barely recognizable. If this is indeed a legitimate Apple device—it seems likely—it’s a good bet that Cupertino has been working hard to track it down and avoid exactly the publicity debacle that’s now unfolding. Now that the cat is out of the bag, Apple may decide the time to pursue the phone politely has passed.

[Image credit: Gizmodo]