updated 11:00 am EST, Mon December 30, 2013
Etched with unusual test-related markings
A device claimed to be a "very rare original iPhone engineering prototype" has sold for $1,499 on eBay. The unit is physically similar to the first-generation iPhone, but has unusual markings in the back, including "Ver. 1.1.1," and numbers associated with different wireless bands including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GSM 800/900/1800/1900. The unit is also depicted running previously-seen test software for components like sensors and audio hardware; interestingly, a "touch" component is included, even though fingerprint recognition didn't arrive on the iPhone until this year's iPhone 5s.
The seller -- "applefancollector" in Australia -- touts the prototype as in "near mint condition, apart from a very tiny mark in the back," and says it "passes all tests perfectly." How he obtained the phone is unclear, although Apple regularly distributes test phones to its engineers so they can be put through real-world trials.
Apple typically forces eBay to pull auctions of prototype hardware. It may not have objected in this instance because of the age of the device; alternately, the unit may not be authentic, or the company may simply not have noticed in time. It could also try to intervene in the sale after the fact.