I think we can all safely conclude that prototype smartphones and alcohol do not mix. After Apple lost not one but two ubersupersecret iPhone prototypes in Bay Area booze dispensaries, a Google phone turned up sans owner at the 500 Club in San Francisco's Mission District last month.
And not just any Google phone, but the brand-new Nexus 4 the G-people were supposed to officially unveil today in New York City until Hurricane Sandy had other ideas. As some wag at Cnet tweeted: "Google infringes on Apple's patent for losing prototype phones in bars." Wish I'd said that.
[ In another case of who owns what, Cringely covers Amazon's recent DRM drama and Kindle kerfuffle. | For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. | Get the latest insight on the tech news that matters from InfoWorld's Tech Watch blog. ]
Wired's Evan Hansen has the details about how the phone was found and Google's frantic efforts to get it back.
The unit was found by 500 Club bartender Jamin Barton, who doesn't know much about smartphones but knew this one was unusual. He asked a geek friend named Dave (why are they always named Dave?) to look into it. Dave contacted Google and apparently got the circuitry scared out of him.
Dave agreed to make some calls to Google HQ. When Barton heard back from him the next day, Dave was shaken.
"Dave" -- Barton says he does not know his full name -- "sort of freaked out. 'Google lost a phone,' he told me. 'You just got a guy fired.... The Google police are coming'"
After that, the texts and phone messages from Dave became a torrent.
"I probably shouldn't have shown it to him. But I did. He didn't work for Google, but Google had him pretty worked up. They told him he could be an accessory or something."
When the Google police showed up at the bar, in the form of global investigations and intelligence manager Brian Katz, Barton and the phone were elsewhere. To get rid of him, the bartender on call sent Katz to the police station around the corner, where there just happened to be a riot underway because of a police shooting of a suspected gang member -- just another boring night in the smartphone business.
Ultimately, an attorney acted as a go-between, verifying Katz's identity, then taking the Nexus model from Barton and handing it over later that night.
Unlike with the prototype iPhone 4, which was left in a San Jose hofbrau by Apple engineer Gray Powell in March 2010 and later "loaned" to Gizmodo for $5,000, Barton wasn't trying to cash in on his find. He did secure the promise of a new smartphone from Google, if he kept the story quiet until after the now-cancelled press conference. He also got an undisclosed amount from Wired for photos taken of the unit.