Photos of what appears to be Apple's next-generation iPhone have been leaked on the Internet by technology news websites, which claim it's a yet-unreleased gadget from the company.
According to reports, it seems someone left the device on a bar stool after having a drink in Redwood City, Calif. -- just a few miles from Apple headquarters.
Gizmodo identified the culprit as Gray Powell, a 27-year-old Apple engineer who was "enjoying the fine imported ales at Gourmet Haus Staudt, a nice German beer garden" before he accidentally abandoned the test model phone on a bar stool on his way out the door.
Enthusiast website Engadget said the phone was hidden inside an iPhone 3G case and featured a front-facing camera, 80GB of storage and a new operating system. Fellow gadgetheads at Gizmodo followed up promptly with an exhaustive review of what the site claims is "Apple's next iPhone," camouflaged to look like a current generation device.
Gizmodo claims that the features in its next-generation iPhone are drastically new and drastically different from what came before.
The site points out the following new or changed bits of hardware: a front-facing video chat camera, an improved back-of-phone camera with flash, a micro-SIM card as in the iPad, an improved display, buttons for volume, and more.
Gizmodo also notes a plastic back and a handful of other design changes to the device. "At first sight, this new iPhone's industrial design seems so different from the previous two generations that it could be discarded as just a provisional case," writes editor Jason Chen.
As definitive proof that it's a real product, Chen writes that "when we opened it up, we saw multiple components that were clearly labeled APPLE. And, because the components were fit extremely well and extremely conformed inside the case (obvious that it was designed FOR this case), it was evident that it was not just a 3G or a 3GS transplanted into another body. That probably wouldn't even be possible, with the size constraints of the thinner device and larger battery."
A blurred image from Engadget earlier in the morning seemed to show a similar device: one "4G" sitting on the iPad itself and the corner of another showing just out of shot. The iPhone on the iPad has an aluminum case, revisiting the design of the first iPhone in June 2007.
Engadget said a source had since confirmed to them that the device was the new iPhone. The source said the new camera would be higher-res and have a flash, while the 4G's screen would also be higher-res and the phone would take a MicroSIM card.
Photos leaked on Twitpic back in February show a new button on the side of the phone which may confirm the rumors of the MicroSIM card addition, but Apple is claiming the photos have been faked, despite their similarity to the mysterious iPhone seen sitting on the iPad in Engadget's photo.
The new iPhone is expected to be unveiled on June 22, after Apple recently booked the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco for that date.
The last event Apple held at the Yerba Buena Center was the iPad launch.
News.com.au contributed to this report.