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Apple Seeks Return Of 'Lost' iPhone

Gizmodo, which posted pictures of an unreleased iPhone, faces criticism for its handling of the story.

Apple on Monday sent a formal letter via e-mail to Gizmodo editor Brian Lam seeking the return of the now infamous iPhone featured on the gadget site.

Earlier in the day, Gizmodo featured a detailed analysis of an unreleased iPhone prototype that includes several features not available in current iPhone models, such as a second camera that faces forward and an improved display.

While doubts remain that Apple intends to release an iPhone that uses the same blocky, utilitarian chassis as the prototype iPhone, it's clear that the improvements and extra features are intended for a future iPhone model, possibly to be released this summer.

Gizmodo's scoop -- obtaining an iPhone prototype -- ought to have been the pinnacle of achievement for the gadget site. The iPhone's popularity and Apple's fanatical secrecy have generated between 14 to 16 million more page views than the site normally receives.

But Gizmodo has come under fire for its handling of the affair. Nick Denton, who runs Gizmodo's parent Gawker Media, has confirmed reports that Gizmodo paid $5,000 for the iPhone. Many believe such "checkbook journalism" is unethical, though Denton defends the practice.

The site has also detailed how it believes the iPhone was lost, pointing the spotlight on an unfortunate Apple software engineer. Gizmodo's Chen said in a Twitter post that the expose was intended to help the engineer keep his job.

Apple's defenders -- and they are legion -- have chastised Gizmodo for failing to handle a device they regard as stolen in the legally mandated manner.

Some iPhone developers, like Craig Hockenberry, have taken to technical protest by terminating DNS requests for Gizmodo.com and Gawker.com received by servers under their control. Those accessing the Internet using such name servers will be unable to reach the blocked sites. It remains to be seen whether this boycott will spread.

Daring Fireball blogger John Gruber suggests the saga is not over, and hints at possible blacklisting from Apple events or future legal

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