Auction for alleged iPhone 6 prototype ends with no sale

The eBay auction for the prototype has come to a halt, and the item is no longer available. Could Apple have stepped in to put the kibosh on it?

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

An eBay seller who was trying to hawk an alleged iPhone 6 prototype has terminated the auction with no sale and no explanation.

Put up for auction late last week, the phone was apparently an iPhone 6 still running in developers mode. The eBay seller kimberlyk1018 -- identified by CNET as Alex Kantor -- said he ordered a new iPhone 6 from Verizon, only to discover that the model sent to him was a prototype, and not the standard consumer edition.

"I determined that this iPhone was a version not meant for the consumer market after seeing the software version on it," Kantor told CNET on Monday. "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. 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."

Realizing he had a prototype, Kantor said, he decided to test the waters by putting it up for auction on eBay. The bidding reached a feverish pitch, pushing the price to more than $100,000 on Monday night, according to news site The Independent.

The description of the item on eBay offered the following details:

For sale is a brand new never used Apple iPhone 6 Prototype. Apple does NOT let these phones out of their possession yet I was accidentally sent one upon renewing my contract. As you can see from the photos, iOS8 has not been placed on this device, rather it is in the true developer mode. There are no FCC markings on the rear of the device or a model number. This is the real deal!!! The lightening port is red which is a sure sign of a prototype. This device is being sold as is. I cannot guarantee that it will make calls or that the camera will work. However I can guarantee you that the device is a 64gb iPhone 6 which was sent to me from Verizon.

Kantor also said that by labeling the device a prototype, he was admitting that it was never meant for the consumer market.

But alas the auction never got a chance to finish. On Tuesday, the device's eBay page showed that the auction had stopped with a simple note saying: "This listing was ended by the seller because the item is no longer available." The bid price showed just $999, and no bidding history was listed.

So why was the auction stopped and the phone no longer available? The answer may lie in the description of the item itself.

Apple does not let prototypes out of its possession, and such devices are not meant for consumers. As such, the iPhone maker itself may have intervened in the auction to put a halt to the proceedings, meaning it asked for or demanded the return of the phone. And Kantor may have had little choice but to return it or face unwanted trouble.

Of course, that is pure speculation. Without knowing the facts, that explanation is just a guess. But it wouldn't be the first time Apple secured the return of a device that was not meant for public consumption.

In 2010, Apple formally requested the return of an iPhone 4G prototype that was obtained by tech blog site Gizmodo. In 2011, the company asked for the return of a 3G MacBook prototype that was being sold through Craigslist. Apple also has a history of sending in the troops to track down prototypes of devices accidentally left in bars.

Apple, eBay, and Kantor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.