If Something Sounds Weird…

I’m writing this because my wife hasn’t.

Maybe she will later, but I’m not holding my breath.

In talking about the Gizmodo/iPhone Lost Property Thing

That’s written with the assumption that the series of events outlined in Gizmodo are basically correct.

You may catch a hint of disbelief here and there, and it’s with good reason. We don’t know *what* is missing from the story, but something is.

I assume you’ve read the article, and if you haven’t, I suggest you do. Here’s the breakdown of what I see in the article:

1 ) Gizmodo introduces us to Gray Powell and paints him as a talented enough guy who “abandoned” (their words) his next-gen iPhone on a bar stool. They make multiple references about the beer and the fact that he was “celebrating,” but don’t go as far as calling him an out-and-out lush. They simply say, “those beers may have turned out to be the bitterest of his life.”

2 ) They go on about how tight Apple’s security is. Then they point out that Powell lost the phone. They mention that Powell was at the bar, and how others around him were enjoying, “plenty of the golden liquid.” Again, no direct calling of Powell a lush.

3 ) “The guy who ended up with the iPhone” (hereafter “The Finder”) goes through a bizarre ritual to eventually get it.

a) Powell leaves it on a bar stool.
b) A “random drunk guy” asks if it’s the The Finder’s.
c) The Finder says, “No.”
d) The “random drunk guy” conclude’s it’s The Finder’s friend’s.
e) The “random drunk guy” tells The Finder not to lose it, and leaves.

Now, this is editorializing by me. The first thing about this is that it’s detailed and weird enough to seem believable. The second, though, is that if it WERE a lie, it’d be pretty classic. The Finder never “takes” the iPhone from Powell. The “random drunk guy” takes it. The Finder never claims that it’s his. “The random drunk guy” doesn’t even give it to The Finder under the false pretense of believing it’s The Finder’s. The Finder has done absolutely NOTHING wrong.

Again, I’m not saying that this part is false, but it might have a familiar ring to some people who’ve heard similar stories all of their lives.

4 ) They mention that The Finder waited around “for some time” but Powell never returned. Immediately after this, they mention that “while he was waiting” The Finder:

a) Thought it was an iPhone 3GS
b) Tried the camera
c) Paged through six pages of applications
d) Looked at the Facebook App
e) Noted that Gray Powell’s was “on the Facebook App.”

So, let me ask you a question. If a random drunk guy hands you a stranger’s iPhone do you look through it? Do you try the camera?

Here’s the other thing. You know what ELSE was on the Facebook app? Gray Powell’s picture. I’m not saying The Finder would have figured out to connect the two, but still…

5 ) “Thinking about returning the phone the next day, he left.”

This is my favorite part. The Finder stated to “the drunk guy” that it wasn’t his phone. He already played around with it, and then he LEFT WITH IT.

“Thinking about returning the phone the next day.” To where? The bar that he was already at?

6 ) They talk about the fact that Apple “bricked” the iPhone remotely. He takes a closer look at the phone. Then, AND ONLY THEN, does The Finder think that there may be something special about the phone.

Again, I have to ask, if this was the case, why would he have taken it with him from the bar? Is that normal?

7 ) “He reached for a phone and called a lot of Apple numbers and tried to find someone who was at least willing to transfer his call to the right person, but no luck. No one took him seriously and all he got for his troubles was a ticket number.”

You know who gives you a ticket number? Customer Service and Tech Support. Am I faulting The Finder for calling Apple instead of trying to contact Gray Powell or taking it back to the bar where Gray Powell might be looking for it? Well, here’s the thing.

The only reason for him to take it from the bar in the first place if he thought it was only a regular iPhone is if he planned to return it to Powell personally. Otherwise, he would have left it at the bar.

So, if we take The Finder at his word and give , he had every intention to return it to Powell, and then decided it would be better to return it to Apple. He tried his hardest to get through to Apple, to tell them that he had their phone, but no one would believe him. He couldn’t find a single Apple employee who would believe that he had their iPhone.

Of course he knew one, though. He knew an Apple employee who would absolutely believe him: GRAY POWELL. Gizmodo continues:

“He thought that eventually the ticket would move up high enough and that he would receive a call back, but his phone never rang. What should he be expected to do then? Walk into an Apple store and give the shiny, new device to a 20-year-old who might just end up selling it on eBay?”

Yes! Why should The Finder turn this phone over to a 20-year-old who would try to profit from it. How could he find the RIGHT Apple to whom he should return this phone? Oh, that’s right: Gray Powell.

Now, of course, I’m ignoring the fact that maybe he didn’t memorize Gray Powell’s name, and only remembered it later somehow. However, I have to imagine that Gray most likely returned to the bar to report the loss of his “iPhone.”

8 ) After going the hard road of Apple customer service and avoiding the pitfall of “some 20-year-old” selling it for profit. The Finder finally SELLS IT TO GIZMODO for $5,000. Quite a turnaround.

9 ) Gizmodo mentions that they didn’t know whose phone it was until the day they wrote the article, and they confirmed it by calling him.

So, here’s the thing:

Points 1-8 are all a story that The Finder told Gizmodo, and the story may be true or it may be false. It certainly has some things in it that seem off to me.

Why did Gizmodo publish such a detailed account of who Gray Powell was and push a big emphasis of his “celebrating” at a bar? They even closed the article with:

“The only real mistake would be to fire Gray in the name of Apple’s legendary impenetrable security, breached by the power of German beer and one single human error.”

I have an idea, but again, this is just my opinion. The opinion is also contingent on Gizmodo being above board with this story. It assumes The Finder exists, and the story outlined in 1-8 is the exact story he told them:

At the time, there were a lot of rumors going around that the iPhone wasn’t a real iPhone, or that it was a plant. So they pressed The Finder for information that they didn’t bother asking the first time.

They said the phone wouldn’t go past the login screen when they got it, and they “didn’t know who it belonged to” when they got it. They “heard the story later.”

If they didn’t know who it belonged to when they got it, and the phone was dead when they got it, what’s the only way they could have known Gray Powell’s name? From The Finder. How would they have known it? They would have asked him. Why would they have asked him? Because they wanted solid proof that what they had was an Apple product.

Now here’s the thing. I’m just throwing this out as a possibility. You might have your own pet theory. “The Finder” stole it from Gray Powell. Gray Powell sold it and made up “The Finder.” Apple told Gray Powell to leave it at the bar. Apple left it at the bar as a leak and Gray Powell is a scapegoat. On and on and on.

The main thing is, the official story smells a little fishy to me. What do I know, though? I’m nobody.

Still, I think it’s quite possible that the DA is reviewing more than just laws protecting journalists with regards to this situation.

UPDATE 11:49PM Pacific:

I just looked at an article from Wired. Something that caught my eye:

“News of Apple’s lost iPhone prototype hit the web like a bombshell, but it was apparently an open secret for weeks amongst the finder’s roommates and neighbors, where the device was shown around mostly as a curiosity. According to the source, who has direct knowledge of the Gizmodo transaction, the group of friends suspected this might be Apple’s new phone, but no one knew for sure.”

I note that Wired ALSO calls him “The Finder,” which is cool. More importantly, the iPhone was in The Finder’s posession for “weeks!” It makes this idea of him trying to get it back to the original owner seem a little hollow, a feeling that was tested with this statement:

“News accounts depicting the $5,000 payment as a ‘sale’ are incorrect, this person said. Rather, the agreement with Gizmodo was for exclusivity only. ‘It was made very explicit that Gizmodo was to help the finder return the phone to its rightful owner or give it back,’ this person said. ‘Gizmodo said they could help restore the phone.'”

Interesting, that last bit. The Finder didn’t want to return a broken phone, so he gave it to Gizmodo to fix before sending it back to the people who made it?

I would also respectfully point out that “renting” stolen property out to people may not be looked on any more kindly than selling it. Again, I’m no lawyer.

The best bit, for me:

“Wired.com received an e-mail March 28 offering access to the device, but did not follow up on the exchange after the tipster made a thinly veiled request for money.”


About paulgude

Paul Gude writes small books, makes stupid music, draws silly pictures, and does weird things on stage.
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6 Responses to If Something Sounds Weird…

  1. Christian Cosas says:
  2. paulgude says:

    I haven’t seen these!

    Reading now.

  3. paulgude says:

    Read the suntimes.com article. Nice to see some of the same points by a legitimate news organization. Most of the places I was looking kept going on and on about Apple’s “draconian” tactics. I’m not the biggest fan of them right now, but they seemed to have a legitimate beef on this one.

    Reading the next after I make Jennifer some popcorn.

  4. paulgude says:

    (Full disclosure, I rarely if ever look at things from “legitimate news organizations” for this kind of thing. I’m more into the overblown hype.)

  5. paulgude says:

    Liked the second one, too.

    Again, interesting to hear a journalist chime in on what the responsibilities of a journalist in this situation might be.

  6. lhyzz says:

    Isn’t fairly common for a journalist to pay a source for information? Couldn’t this easily be what the $5,000 transaction was, “you give me the story of how you came to be in possession of this iPhone prototype, along with the evidence you have that it is real, and allow us to photograph the device; I pay you $5,000” and meanwhile, Gizmodo hangs onto the device in order to return it to Apple once it’s published its story.

    If anyone can be charged with larceny, it is The Finder, but I don’t think charges will ever stick to Gizmodo.

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