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Behind The Scenes of Verizon iPhone: Special PIN Security Protocol, “ACME” Code Name

In a lengthy report published earlier today, TechnoBuffalo shares some of the interesting details behind the launch of the Verizon iPhone 4, which went on sale in the United States in February. In the months leading to the launch of the CDMA device, speculation was running wild on the Internet as to whether Apple was really ending AT&T exclusivity to release an updated version of the iPhone to support Verizon Wireless’ CDMA infrastructure; citing a source “close to the action”, TechnoBuffalo says only top executives at Verizon knew about the device, which internally used to be mentioned as “ACME device” to avoid other employees would hear the “iPhone” name and leak information outside of the company. Public testing of the CDMA iPhone 4 began at Apple Stores (and obviously, Apple’s own campus, where Steve Jobs said they had installed Verizon and AT&T towers) six months ahead of the official launch, meaning in summer 2010 shortly after the release of the AT&T iPhone.

Though key employees and executives were in the loop, everyone else at the carrier knew little more than the rest of the public. And it would seem the higher ups wanted to keep it that way. No one talked about the Apple smartphone externally, and even internally, it was still a hush-hush operation. In fact, says the source, the word “iPhone” was never uttered; only its codename was referenced: It was called the “ACME” device.

Between NDAs to sign, corporate secrets and internal discussions about field-testing and cooperation with Apple, the most interesting tidbit details how, rather than installing geo-location software (like Find my iPhone) on the prototypes to make sure they wouldn’t end up in the wrong hands (as the AT&T iPhone 4 did), Verizon testers were required to text a PIN code every 12 hours as a confirmation the device was being used internally for testing purposes only.

Our source describes a unique protocol requiring staffers to text a secret PIN code to a dedicated phone number every 12 hours. This served as ongoing confirmation that the handset was still in the proper hands. So no PIN code, no functionality.

Unlike the original iPhone 4, Apple managed to keep the Verizon iPhone closely under wraps until the official announcement, not even allowing Verizon to tease anything at CES 2011 in Las Vegas a few weeks before. The security measures taken by Apple to ensure devices were only used internally are particularly interesting, and a sign Apple must have reconsidered its testing process after the AT&T iPhone got leaked to Gizmodo.com in Spring 2010, months before the WWDC announcement.

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