Apple has asked for a prototype iPhone found in a bar to be returned, fuelling speculation it is an early version of the next-generation of the device.
A letter sent to news site Gizmodo confirms the lost phone belongs to Apple and requests the firm provide details of where the handset can be collected.
Gizmodo claims the device is an early version of Apple’s next iPhone, which it says is scheduled to launch in June.
Editor Nick Denton confirmed Gizmodo bought the prototype, which was disguised as an iPhone 3GS when it was lost in a bar by an Apple engineer.
It features a front-facing camera, a larger battery, the recently announced OS 4.0 and a slightly smaller screen than current models.
Despite paying for the device, Gizmodo was initially sceptical about the phone, which was running OS 4.0 before it was publicly announced.
But it said “the overall quality feels exactly like a finished final Apple phone—and disassembling this unit, there is so much evidence stacked in its favour, that there's very little possibility that it's a fake.
“In fact, the possibility is almost none. Imagine someone having to use Apple components to design a functioning phone, from scratch, and then disseminating it to people around the world. Pretty much impossible.”
Gizmodo said the back of the device was entirely flat, most likely made of glass or ceramic, with an extremely high-resolution display.
It is 3 grams heavier than the 3GS iPhone and the battery 16% bigger. The components have been shrunk to make room for the larger battery.