Big news yesterday: A judge unsealed lots of juicy court documents related to Apple’s lost smartphone, what Gizmodo calls the “next iPhone.” Since seemingly every blog or news site on the planet covered the unsealing while I was out sick yesterday, I am writing a lighter, top-10 followup today.
But first the news-heavy recap: An Apple employe lost the iPhone prototype in mid-March, while celebrating his birthday. The finder later sold the device to Gizmodo, reportedly for ,000, although the unsealed court documents list the sum as ,500 with promise of a possible bonus later on. Gizmodo published a series of stories, with photos and videos, starting on April 19. On April 23, San Mateo police officers raided the home of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen. Court documents refer to him as “suspect Chen.”
How did all this come to be? The court documents tell a pretty damning story. The backstory is damn interesting, too, like one of those reality cop shows. The day before the police raid on Chen’s home, the iPhone finder, Brian Hogan — whom some people would call thief — removed evidence from his residence before police could sieze it. He was helped by a friend, who later gave up discarded memory cards after being arrested on two unrelated warrants. What drama! I can’t help but wonder how that episode affected cops’ decision to raid Chen’s home the following day.
With that introduction, here are the 10 things you should know about the unsealed Apple-Gizmodo court docs presented in no particular order of importance:
1. Among the 22 items seized by police: A box of business cards. Whoa! There it is! The evidence that breaks the case wide open!
2. Cops were supposed to sieze items “used as a means of committing a felony.” Oh, yeah, that surely describes suspect Chen’s business cards.
3. Among the list of items to be seized: Memory cards. Eh, not business cards. Surely Chen would have given Apple one of his business cards had a PR rep asked.
4. The list of items for establishing suspect Chen’s identity would make Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg blush. Appendix B, “Description of items to be seized,” identifies more than a dozen highly-private items, including utility bills, “driver’s licenses, credit cards, passports, social security cards and photographs,” but not business cards.
5. Speaking of privacy, the unsealed court documents reveal Chen’s full name, California driver’s license number, cell phone number, address of residence, date of birth, height and weight. Facebook only reveals some of this information. We now know that Chen’s astrological sign is Aquarius. Shocking!
6. “Suspect Hogan” needs a new roommate. Hogan’s rommie, Katherine Martinson, turned him into Apple security and later provided damning evidence to police. However, she did wait until after he sold the device to Gizmodo and for its publication of photos, videos and prototype description. Eighty-five hundred bucks. Rent money?
7. Hogan lacks common sense. One of Gizmodo’s stories claims that Hogan repeatedly called Apple, but got no response to his attempts to return the lost iPhone. Is Hogan lying, or perhaps he didn’t try hard enough? Martinson easily contacted Apple on April 19, speaking to Rick Orloff, director of information security. The unsealed documents also reveal that Hogan obtained Powell’s information from the iPhone prototype. What? Hogan didn’t have another phone to call Powell with? Surely Hogan could have Facebook friended Powell and then private messaged about the lost phone. Hogan contacted Chen without using a business card. A Facebook profile is even better, thanks to Zuckerberg loosening up everyone’s private information. Say, why didn’t cops seize Chen’s Facebook account?
8. Apple really needs to work on its customer service. Chen is — or perhaps was — a good Apple customer. Cops seized three Mac laptops, Apple wireless base station, 32GB iPod (presumably touch) and 16GB iPhone when executing the search warrant. Since Apple gives reviewers 32GB iPhones, Chen presumably purchased the smartphone — and other items, too.
9. Gizmodo editor Brian Lam appears to be immune to Steve Jobs’ “reality distortion field.” According to the unsealed documents, Apple’s CEO personally called Lam, asking that Gizmodo return the iPhone prototype. Lam refused, demanding that Apple first document ownership. What? A call from Jobs isn’t verification enough?
10. Lam needs lessons in “ethics” and “good judgment” and perhaps a pink slip. His e-mail response to Jobs’ begins “Hey, Steve” — like they’re the best of buddies. “This e-mail chain [that] is off the record on my side” is now very public. Lam claims that Gizmodo has got “nothing to lose” because “Apple PR has been cold to us lately.” Huh? Lam thinks the “next iPhone” stories will warm up Apple-Gizmodo relations? Or that he can threaten the great Mac cult leader Jobs?