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Surveillance footage of lost iPhone 5 prototype automatically erased

Existing surveillance footage that could have offered answers to questions about an iPhone 5 prototype that went missing this summer has been automatically erased before being viewed by police investigators.

The recordings have been deleted in an automatic process after the hard drive storing the images reached full capacity, CNet reports. The drive contained footage from six surveillance cameras placed inside the Cava 22 bar where an Apple employee reportedly forgot a next-gen iPhone prototype on July 22.

But, the cameras do not record continuous video. Instead they take pictures roughly 3 minutes apart, which are then saved locally for a limited amount of time. On top of the gaps between recordings, sections of the bar are poorly lit. As such, these factors suggest the deleted surveillance footage may have not provided much insight into the matter even if retrieved in time.

The San Francisco Police Department recently requested access to the available recordings while looking into the role police officers played during Apple’s unofficial investigation of the situation. Jose Valle, whose family owns Cava 22, was unavailable when the police first asked for the available video recordings. He then contacted SFPD, but police officials have yet follow up on their investigation.

Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple has not filed a police report, though it did conduct a search of a house in the Bernal Heights neighborhood on July 24 after tracking the missing iPhone to that location. Apple personnel allegedly performed the search of Sergio Calderon’s home, car and computer under police supervision. SFPD has said that the officers were not part of the actual search.

Cava22 bar

Credit: Greg Sandoval/CNet.

At this time, it remains unknown what happened to the lost iPhone prototype. In the two months since the event, images of the missing device or the actual unit do not appear to have made their way to the press ahead of the announcement of a new iPhone. Apple is expected to unveil at least one fifth-generation iPhone on Tuesday at 10 a.m. PDT.

This year's lost prototype fiasco oddly mirrors a similar situation from last year. In early 2010, an iPhone 4 test unit disguised as an iPhone 3GS was left in a German beer garden in California and ended up being purchased by a blog. Images of the prototype and a review of the pre-release unit were then published a few months ahead of the official iPhone 4 media event. The investigation in that case has been completed and the two suspects alleged to have found last year’s iPhone prototype have recently pleaded not guilty in an ongoing trial.