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Did SFPD reveal that lost device is iPhone 5?

San Francisco Police Department issues statement via Word file labeled iPhone5.doc. The police and Apple have only added to confusion about probe into lost unreleased iPhone.

Declan McCullagh Former Senior Writer
Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.
Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Declan McCullagh
Greg Sandoval
3 min read

There's still some confusion surrounding the hunt by Apple and the San Francisco Police Department for a lost, unreleased iPhone, thanks in large part to conflicting statements by the police, as well as Apple's reluctance to discuss the matter.

San Francisco police confirmed yesterday that they "assisted" Apple internal security in a recent search of a home that was aimed at finding an unreleased iPhone owned by the company and lost in a San Francisco bar. On Wednesday, CNET was the first to report the search for the errant phone.

Apple has declined to identify the lost device. But when distributing its statement last night through a Word file, a police representative labeled the file "iphone5.doc," according to the Reuters news service.

Immediately after CNET's initial story appeared, SFPD representatives claimed that they couldn't find any records that Apple had reported a lost iPhone or that any of its officers had assisted with any investigation. The SFPD made similar statements as early as yesterday morning.

But by yesterday afternoon, the SFPD had abruptly changed its story. It belatedly confirmed that as many as four policemen from the department's Ingleside station had escorted Apple internal security to a home in San Francisco's Bernal Heights neighborhood.

What changed in 48 hours to help the SFPD locate information about the police's involvement in the search?

"Apple," Lt. Troy Dangerfield told CNET this morning. "We needed information from Apple [to locate records of the investigation], and they didn't reach out to us until yesterday."

Apple declined to comment in advance of CNET's initial report or respond to other media inquiries, and the company even declined to respond to requests made by the SFPD when officers called to help check the veracity of CNET's story, SFPD representatives have said. Apple came forward only after SF Weekly published a story yesterday about Sergio Calderon, a 22-year-old man who told the paper it was his house that police and Apple employees visited late last month.

Calderon said he was led to believe the six people who arrived at his home were all policemen. He claimed he was never told that two of the people were Apple employees. Though he told the group that he didn't know anything about the phone, they asked to searched his house. He agreed.

According to the SFPD's Dangerfield, officers never entered the home and it was Apple's employees who went through Calderon's belongings--a search that included an examination of his computer--in search of the phone. Calderon told SF Weekly that he would not have submitted to the search if he knew that the people doing it were not policemen.

While Apple has not publicly announced any plans for future phones, unconfirmed reports in the last few weeks suggest the launch date for the iPhone 5 is likely to be in early October. Other reports from Taiwan have set the date at September or October. (See CNET's iPhone 5 rumor roundup.)

Last year, a prototype iPhone 4 went missing when Robert Gray Powell, an Apple computer engineer who was 28 years old at the time, left it in a German beer garden in Redwood City, Calif.

In early August, San Mateo County prosecutors filed misdemeanor criminal charges against two men, Brian Hogan and Sage Wallower, for allegedly selling Powell's iPhone 4 prototype to Gawker Media's Gizmodo blog. Both pleaded not guilty this week.

Prosecutors obtained a warrant to search the home of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen, and indicated they might prosecute Gizmodo, but eventually decided not to file charges.

Last updated at 12:27 p.m.