Gizmodo believes that such official communication proves the device is real. However, it should be noted that this does not necessarily mean that the device is the next iPhone - just that it's an Apple prototype of some sort.
How the phone was found
The iPhone 4G prototype - at least, that's what Gizmodo assumes it is - was reportedly found by an anonymous bar-goer at Gourmet Haus Staudt, a German beer garden in Redwood City, near San Francisco. The phone was discovered on a barstool at midnight on Thursday, March 19.
The person who found the phone asked around the bar to see if anyone had lost an iPhone 3GS (the phone had a case on it that made it look like a 3GS), but nobody claimed it. The person then unlocked the phone and found the Facebook page of Apple software engineer, Gray Powell, still signed in. The person decided to try to return it in the morning.
Gizmodo says that the person woke up to find the phone dead - thanks to Apple's MobileMe service, which allows users to wipe their stolen iPhones of all data, remotely. The person then noticed the phone looked different from other iPhones - for one thing, it had a front-facing camera - and managed to remove the "disguise" case. Upon discovering that this iPhone was not like any other iPhone out there, this person promptly forgot their promise to find Gray Powell and return the phone, and started selling to the highest bidder.
Did Gizmodo shell out $5,000 for its exclusive lost iPhone 4G story?
Yes, says head of Gawker Media (the publisher of Gizmodo) Nick Denton, who tweeted earlier Monday, "Yes, we're proud practitioners of checkbook journalism. Anything for the story!" and "Does Gizmodo pay for exclusives? Too right!"
According to AOL's Daily Finance, Engadget had the chance to bid after it published the first fuzzy photos of the phone, but declined. Engadget editor in chief Joshua Topolsky says he doesn't believe in checkbook journalism as "it encourages awful behavior in tipsters."