What's missing from the iPhone 5 rumor mill

A key tenet of Apple rumormongering is that Apple history repeats itself repeatedly: If Apple has done X, Y and 42 so much as twice consecutively, pundits posit that Apple will do X, Y and 42 a third time.

So I'm going to use this methodology to attempt to poke holes in a solidifying conventional wisdom that Apple will announce the iPhone 5 on June 11 at its Worldwide Developers Conference.

iPhone 5 with 4-inch screen may not be a sure thing 

As anyone who follows the industry knows, each of the past two iPhone releases has been preceded by a prototype of the upcoming model disappearing from a bar.

An iPhone 4 prototype went missing on March 18, 2010 and Apple officially unveiled the model on June 7. That's 81 days later. An iPhone 4S prototype skedaddled out of a saloon on July 21, 2011 and Apple took the wraps off that baby on Oct. 4. Seventy-five days.

A difference of a mere six days. Coincidence? I think n ... well, work with me here.

The next component in the equation is the elapsed time between the loss of the prototype and public disclosure of same.

The loss of the iPhone 4 prototype was not revealed publicly until an April 18, 2010 story by Gizmodo: 32 days. The iPhone 4S prototype was quietly MIA until an Aug. 31, 2011 story by CNET: 41 days.

Close again: We see that it takes the press an average of 36.5 days to catch wind of iPhone prototypes going missing from bars.

Which brings us back to June 11 and Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, at which - if you believe a growing chorus of pundits -- there is expected to be an official iPhone 5 announcement.

Color me skeptical. Unless all the iPhone 5 prototypes have been surgically implanted into the forearms of those Apple employees who have them, history tells us that one went missing on or about Feb. 27, which means the news story should have been published in early April.

Since the latter didn't happen, the implications are clear: Either Apple has gotten much better at suppressing news about its missing iPhone prototypes. Or those looking for an iPhone 5 announcement on June 11 are going to be sorely disappointed.

History's first prank phone call

Unless it turns out that Alexander Graham Bell didn't really want to see Watson - that he was just goofing on the guy - then the first documented prank phone call would appear to have occurred about eight years after that famous 1876 exchange ... and at the expense of an undertaker in Providence, R.I.

This nugget of telecommunications history comes from the Feb. 2, 1884 edition of The Electrical World, via Google Books, and was unearthed by Paul Collins, an associate professor of English at Portland State University, who is perhaps better known as The Literary Detective. The passage, highlighted on Buzzblog last week, reads:

"A GRAVE JOKE ON UNDERTAKERS -- Some malicious wag at Providence R.I. has been playing a grave practical joke on the undertakers there, by summoning them over the telephone to bring freezers, candlesticks and coffin for persons alleged to be dead. In each case the denoument was highly farcical, and the reputed corpses are now hunting in a lively manner for that telephonist."

Who knew the 19th Century had its own Bart Simpson?

Have one of your own? The address is buzz@nww.com.

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