Update: Question answered*—Gizmodo paid for it

At 10:00 a.m. Monday morning, it set the Internet ablaze. The popular gadget site Gizmodo published photographs of what it claims to be the next iPhone. Because Apple is famous for its obsessive secrecy, everyone's wondering how Gizmodo got it.

While it's still anyone's guess (Gizmodo is not divulging the details), here's how the story begins. Over the weekend, Gizmodo's rival site Engadget published photos it suggested could be the next iPhone. They said a tipster found the iPhone at a bar in San Jose, California and sent them the photos. On Monday, Gizmodo one-upped its competitor by actually acquiring the device and posting similar photos and a video. However, they say the iPhone was found at bar in Redwood City—not San Jose—and they don't explain how they got it. Some postulate that Gizmodo's parent company Gawker Media tracked down Engadget's tipster and paid for the device (paying for a story is not beneath Gawker). But it's still just speculation. Here are the competing theories on how one acquires an iPhone from the future:
  • You *Bribe Someone $10,000 for It  Gawker owner Nick Denton has confirmed that he paid for the phone, which makes Frommer and Gruber correct:  "Gizmodo's owner Gawker Media has -- we believe -- bought the phone from whoever found it," claims Dan Frommer at Business Insider. Tech guru John Gruber agrees. "It’s been an open secret to those of us in the racket that Gizmodo purchased this unit about a week ago, from those who claimed to find it. That this belongs to and was made by Apple is almost beyond question at this point." Blogs such as Edible Apple say "Gizmodo paid a cool $10,000 for it."
  • You Benefit from an Apple Employee's Huge Mistake, imagines John Murrell at Good Morning Silicon Valley: "You can easily see how it might happen. You’re squeezing up to the bar for a refill, you’re getting jostled by the crowd, you’re fumbling around in your pocket for some soggy bills, and your phone slips out and falls to the floor, the clatter masked by the roar of the chatter. You down your drink, call a taxi (because you’re responsible), melt into bed, and only in the aching haze of the next morning do you realize that your cell is missing. A profound sinking feeling ensues, perhaps punctuated by profanity... That is apparently the personal hell of some poor soul at Apple."
  • You Get it Directly from Apple, writes Erica Ogg at CNet: "[Perhaps] Apple leaked this to gauge consumer reaction. The company doesn't do official focus groups. So this would be a pretty efficient, though unofficial, way to poll the entire Internet on the new features and new design choices in this prototype. You can see reactions already popping up everywhere. But as opposed to leaking photos, leaking hardware for Apple would be pretty rare, if not unprecedented."
  • You Acquire a Device and Inaccurately Identify It as the Next iPhone, writes Andy Inhatko: "This Apple prototype does indeed look like a knockoff... This prototype is full of flat surfaces — easy as pie to fabricate — and studded with round switches that can be installed without any custom tooling. The innards of this prototype appear to be genuine, based on Gizmodo’s dissection. But I still have some doubts about the case. This could be just a “carrying around” design, built to give the innards shape and form for human testing. It’s possible that Apple never had any intention of using it as the design of the actual consumer product."