Bidding on alleged iPhone 6 prototype tops $90,000 on eBay

An iPhone 6 that appears to be a little different from a regular production model finds its way onto eBay, where bidding is exploding.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
3 min read

iPhone 6 alleged prototype
An eBay seller describes this phone as a prototype. Alex Kantor

Like millions of other people, Alex Kantor, a technology fan who works with a mobile company, decided he would upgrade to a new iPhone 6. Unlike millions of other people, Kantor has a very unusual story to go along with his new smartphone. He says he ordered his upgrade through Verizon. When it arrived, it appeared to be a phone running in developer mode. He believed he had a prototype in his hands, so he decided to test other consumers' interest by placing it on eBay. Bidding is currently at $90,300 (about £56,402, AU$103,411) with 177 bids placed.

"I determined that this iPhone was a version not meant for the consumer market after seeing the software version on it. I am an avid tech lover and I knew what this software was right away. It is actually called SwitchBoard and is only for internal Apple testing," Kantor tells CNET. "Also, there is no FCC markings on the rear of the device or model number. Also, there is a red charging port which is known on prototypes."

The auction description notes that iOS 8 has not been placed on the device. It comes with the box, charger, headphones and paperwork. "This device is being sold as is. I cannot guarantee that it will make calls or that the camera will work," reads the description. Kantor later added that he plugged the device into iTunes and that iTunes recognized it as an iPhone.

Kantor says the phone was sent to him directly by Verizon and he believes it was simply the "luck of the draw" that he received the version he did. It's a bit like unwrapping the golden ticket from a Willy Wonka chocolate bar.

There are still plenty of questions swirling around this device. Is it truly a prototype? If it came from Verizon, how did it get into the regular shipping mix? Will Apple try to get the phone back? Are all those astonishingly high bids actually real? Kantor certainly hopes they are. "I am so surprised by how high the auction has gone. Yesterday morning I was about to end the auction at $3,500 just to get out quickly. I am very happy that I decided not to end it," he says.

If the phone is what Kantor says he believes it to be, then this wouldn't be the first time an early version of an Apple device has escaped into the public's grasp. Apple asked for the return of a 3G MacBook prototype sold through Craigslist back in 2011. Tech site Gizmodo ended up returning an iPhone 4G that came into its possession in 2010. There have also been a couple of cases of iPhone prototypes getting left behind in bars.

Kantor's eBay account currently has one positive feedback for a purchase he made within the last six months, though the account was started in early 2013. He has no eBay sales feedback. CNET has not had the opportunity to examine the phone and can't make a determination as to whether it's a real prototype. We have reached out to Apple and Verizon for comment.

This will be an interesting story to watch as the auction still has three days left to go. In the meantime, Kantor ordered himself a replacement iPhone 6, saying, "Hope the other one comes back the same."

Update, 12:07 p.m. PT: To add more information on previous eBay activity and a note about reaching out to Apple and Verizon.

Alleged prototype iPhone 6
The back of the phone and the red lightning port. Alex Kantor