Did Apple Really Lose Another iPhone?

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The Web was buzzing Wednesday with reports that an Apple employee had lost yet another iPhone prototype in a bar. Whether this is indeed the case is now less clear, following some additional reporting and investigation.

The San Francisco Police Department told PC Magazine on Thursday that it had no knowledge of any incident, and that Apple was "not giving us anything" to help verify CNET's claims. SFPD spokesperson Officer Albie Esparza repeated this to PCWorld on Thursday afternoon:

"We do not have any knowledge of an Apple iPhone investigation," Esparza said. "I am trying to locate a report associated with that case and so far have been unsuccessful in doing so."

CNET, the news outlet that originally reported the incident, claimed that sources said the SFPD was involved in an investigation into the device’s disappearance. CNET also reported that the lost iPhone was tracked was tracked to a specific residence, however no device was found after police searched the property.

Apple has yet to respond to the SFPD's queries, which raises doubts into the report's validity. With the company being uncooperative with the police, there is no way yet to confirm if the claims made Wednesday are real, a misunderstanding, or even a hoax.

The bar's owner does remember someone contacting him several times about a lost iPhone--then again, how many iPhones are lost in bars everyday? Regardless of the questions surrounding the authenticity of the story, CNET is sticking to its story. "We stand by our story," reporter Declan McCullagh told PCWorld.

The launch of the iPhone 5 is undoubtedly a highly anticipated event. As some have already mentioned, the loss of a prototype device would be big news. Apple certainly could have planted the story in the media in an effort to keep interest high.

Apple has been accused, in the past, of intentionally leaking information on future products as part of its overall marketing strategy, and former employees have confirmed this. Former Apple marketing chief John Martellaro even wrote about how the company uses these controlled leaks in a piece for The Mac Observer last year.

"The company has been doing that for years, and it helps preserve Apple's consistent, official reputation for never talking about unreleased products," Martellaro admits. "I know, because when I was a Senior Marketing Manager at Apple, I was instructed to do some controlled leaks."

Was CNET the channel this time? We can't say for sure yet. It is a little different this time in that no real info on the device itself was released. Still, apparently no information was needed--the media is in a frenzy either way. Building hype for one of its most anticipated products isn't exactly past Apple.

For more tech news and commentary, follow Ed on Twitter at @edoswald, on Facebook or on Google+ as well as Today @ PCWorld.

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