iPhone users often treat their gadget like their baby. So with a prototype for a rumored next generation iPhone lost — the second in the last two years — does this make Apple a bad parent?

But not only has it been lost, it’s also allegedly been lost in the same way: by being left in a bar.

The prototype, according to CNET, went missing in late July from Cava 22, a “tequila lounge” in San Francisco, and resulted in a kept-quiet but missing-child-like search. That apparently didn’t go well, as device reportedly may have been sold on Craigslist for $200. Apple then apparently traced the phone to a residence. CNET has more:

When San Francisco police and Apple’s investigators visited the house, they spoke with a man in his twenties who acknowledged being at Cava 22 on the night the device went missing. But he denied knowing anything about the phone. The man gave police permission to search the house, and they found nothing, the source said. Before leaving the house, the Apple employees offered the man money for the phone no questions asked, the source said, adding that the man continued to deny he had knowledge of the phone.

Jose Valle told CNET that neither the police nor Apple security ever contacted him. Valle, who owns the bar with his family, said however [he does] remember a man calling multiple times about a lost iPhone about a month ago. He told the man he would call him back if he ever found the phone.

“I guess I have to make my drinks a little less strong,” Valle said.

iPhone Prototype Goes Missing, Again

Cava 22 is reportedly where the next-gen iPhone prototype was lost. (Photo: Cava 22)

According to Wired, a prototype of the since-released iPhone 4 went missing in 2010 and was picked up and sold to Gizmodo, a gadget website owned by Gawker, for $5,000. That prototype was left in a beer garden in Redwood City, Calif. An arraignment is scheduled for today on misdemeanor criminal charges for the two men who sold the phone to Gizmodo.

The Guardian (via CNET) writes that Apple, after this first kidnapping, ramped up its security measures for prototypes:

The next iPhones go for their testing inside locked and sealed boxes so that the carriers can carry out checks on their network compatibility in their labs. It’s very high security, as you could guess; my understanding is that barely anyone inside the carriers gets to open those boxes, and even when they do the hardware is encased in a dummy body which means there’s no clue to what the actual phone will do.

Apple has not officially announced plans for a new phone, though the rumor mill is buzzing that one is in the works for a September or October 2011 release. This rumor comes from people like AT&T president saying employees should “expect things to get really, really busy in the next 35 to 50 days, so prepare your teams accordingly.”