Anyone who’s already been following the saga of the iPhone From The Future that ended up in a Redwood City bar knows that the iPhone’s owner (and the Redwood City bar!) have been unmasked as (in order) an Apple Software Engineer named Gray Powell and Gourmet Haus Staudt (German Specialty Store and Beer Garden).

As Appeal pal Alexia Tsotsis notes, you could have read Powell’s tech pundrity on his Twitter feed until he made it private. This is understandable given Gizmodo’s description of Powell as “tired and broken” after their deconstruction of the next-gen iPhone Powell reportedly lost before it was reportedly sold to Gizmodo, which may or may not have made that investment back in pageviews.

There sure were a lot of “reportedly”s in that last sentence! And here’s why: an Appeal reader who says they are Powell’s “good friend” emails that Powell “doesn’t seem to be in any trouble” and that they “suspect this happened on purpose.”

This is certainly echoed by the results of the poll we ran yesterday, wondering how the damn phone ended up in the damn bar in the first place. While (at publication time), 24% of you believed this was, indeed, just a mistake made by Powell, a whopping 58% called this out as a PR/marketing plant. (I am a little disappointed that none of you made any “getting your next Gen iPhone stolen on Muni” jokes. But I will live with my pain!)

While Powell’s screenshot tweets don’t necessarily paint him as a corporate puppet with Steve Jobs’ hand up his ass (and we’ve certainly all left shit in bars!), the skepticism with which the whole story arc’s been greeted, even by those claiming to be close to Powell, certainly gives one pause. What do you think?

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at

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  • Erik

    He probably had to “lose” 20 of these things before one got picked up by someone willing to sell it to a blogger.

  • George Kelly

    I’ve got to go with Team Sloppy. I’ll be surprised if it turns out to be a PR plant.

  • dantsea

    I agree. Apple has historically had a very tough time generating buzz and anticipation regarding their products.

  • wordygirl

    Yeahhhhh…it seems to me that if an engineer at Apple, who I am sure signed very detailed privacy agreements, accidentally “lost” a prototype for a next gen phone, he would be in a shitload of trouble. If he doesn’t, it was obviously a plant.

  • dg

    So if the Gizmodo team (or anybody else for that matter) found my phone, you’re telling me that I should be okay with them prying it open and putting my job on the line. Wow, that is some crazy cutthroat stuff. Where are the legal consequences?

  • m4nm4n

    Alexia Tsotsis shares my thoughts as well. While trying to remain skeptical, I can’t help but get the ‘warm-and-fuzzys’ about having been in a similar situation. (Losing something personal anywhere for that matter.)

    But the one detail that STILL hasn’t surfaced, and no one seems to be talking about: Who is the person whom found the phone in the first place? Who are they? And what new piece do they bring to the puzzle.