An iPhone 5 prototype allegedly taken from a factory run by Apple supplier Foxconn may be the blueprint for all the unofficial cases popping up in China.
Visiting Shenzhen, China, last week, members of the blog site M.I.C. Gadget, who cover stories on China, said they were tipped off by an "iPhone accessories supplier" that the prototype had been missing from Foxconn factory's in the Shenzhen district.
Whoever got their hands on the prototype reportedly wiped its software clean so that it couldn't be traced and then sold it to one of the case makers for around $3,100, leading to the flood of iPhone 5 cases being hawked by online marketplace Alibaba and other Chinese retailers.
Though the prototype was in a case designed to camouflage it as an iPhone 4, the phone itself sported a tapered teardrop shape, which some rumors have claimed the iPhone 5 will use. Compared with cases for the iPhone 4, the cases being created for the new iPhone are thinner but also wider and longer, says M.I.C. Gadget, in some aspects similar to an iPod Touch.
Assuming the story about the missing prototype is true, the blog site says it's "very sure that one or more of these case manufacturers have access to what is believed to be the prototype of the iPhone 5 with the finalized design."
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iPhone prototypes seem to have a history of getting lost.
Last year, an Apple employee left an iPhone 4 prototype in a bar in San Jose, Calif. The phone ended up in the hands of tech blog site Gizmodo, which shelled out $5,000 for it, eventually triggering a police probe. And more recently, an iPhone 5 was reported lost, this time in a bar in San Francisco, and again drawing in the local police.
Whatever iPhone 5 prototypes or cases may be floating around out there, we'll know for sure what the new phone looks like when Apple finally unveils the device next Tuesday.
Correction at 11:00 a.m. PT: This story initially misstated the location of the lost iPhone 4 prototype. It was lost in San Jose, Calif.