2013 Rumor Retrospective: 'All the leaks were...'
I've been writing Rumor Roundups for nearly two years now. In all that time, only two writers from sites featured in the Roundup have ever contacted me directly:
- In mid-2012, Rene Ritchie of iMore contacted me once to (correctly) point out a regrettable inaccuracy I'd written about one of his site's claims.
- Several times over the past few months, Mark Gurman of 9to5 Mac has contacted me via Twitter, and each time he contacts me his behavior becomes more and more... "erratic" is probably the polite way to put it.
On December 19, 9to5 Mac posted a 2013 retrospective patting themselves on the back for their supposed accuracy in the field of Apple rumors. "All the leaks were right," their article claimed. This was an intriguing claim to make, as 9to5 Mac takes the same "throw everything against the wall and see what sticks" approach to rumors as almost every other Apple site out there, and as a result they inevitably post heaps of wildly inaccurate information about Apple's supposed future plans.
When I dared to point out that 9to5 Mac deliberately ignored the dozens of inaccurate stories that it posted during 2013, Mark Gurman challenged me to prove it. I was at the beach in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand when Gurman first contacted me on Twitter. I ignored him at first, but barely two hours later he insisted that I provide him with a list of inaccurate links. I was still at the beach. Sometimes, the real world takes precedence. I assured him I'd get to it in due time.
Naturally, because this is the internet, this was soon followed by a handful of 9to5 Mac readers taunting and harassing me on Twitter. One of them even made a veiled threat about it not being a good idea to "pick a fight" with "9to5 Warriors" because "we don't get much sleep, you know."
Regrettably, I was too busy laughing my ass off to be properly intimidated. But it did provide me with the motivation to do a deep dive into 9to5 Mac's vaunted accuracy - as did Gurman once again prodding me (in a tweet he's since deleted), days after his initial challenge, to provide a list of inaccurate claims his site had made (or passed on).
There is an old Vulcan proverb: "Be careful what you ask for. You may get it."
I examined all of 9to5 Mac's articles between January 1 and December 28 2013. This was 326 pages of content, at 6 articles per page, for a total of 1956 articles.
The tl;dr summary of 9to5 Mac's 2013 track record:
- 73 rumor articles turned out to be true, and 30 of those were derived from their original sources
- 91 rumor articles turned out to be either partially or entirely inaccurate, or else completely unverifiable
That gives them an overall accuracy record of just under 45 percent. You'd do better by flipping a coin.
In 2013, 9to5 Mac posted a total of 164 articles that were either purely rumors or else speculative posts based on rumors. This was lower than I expected, accounting for only about 8.4 percent of all articles on their site.
9to5 Mac posted an impressively high 73 rumor articles that turned out to be entirely true, and this included all of the articles derived from their own original sources-a truly impressive and commendable 30 articles in total. 9to5 Mac absolutely does have someone inside Apple (probably several someones) feeding them accurate information.
If that were the whole story, then it'd be time for me to shut up and retire. Unfortunately, 9to5 Mac isn't content to stick with its own trusted sources, and it takes the same "shotgun" approach as everyone else by posting idiotic analyst speculation and Digitimes-derived BS with only occasional nods in the general direction of skepticism.
Let me be perfectly clear: I take no issue whatsoever with 9to5 Mac's reporting of rumors derived from its own original sources. They obviously work hard to get this information, and it almost always turns out to be either wholly or substantially accurate. The problem is, it's hard to sort out these diamonds from the piles of typical "telephone game" nonsense Apple rumors they're buried in.
If 9to5 Mac stuck to reporting only its own, originally-sourced rumors-and if they could rein in the more *ahem* enthusiastic members of their staff-they could easily be the undisputed go-to bastion of all Apple rumors. Sadly, that ain't so.
I wasn't feeling particularly charitable in my analysis of 9to5 Mac's track record (for some strange reason). Therefore, for any story that wasn't derived from their own sources (a "re-reported" article, in other words) or any purely speculative posts, if any detail was ultimately incorrect or simply unverifiable, I counted the entire article as inaccurate.
In 2013, 9to5 Mac posted 91 stories that were either partially or wholly inaccurate. Almost all of them were sourced from analysts, Digitimes, or some other typically unreliable source.
Analysis of 9to5 Mac's record over 2013 provided some interesting insights into the state of Apple rumors as a whole. Predictably, the farther away we are from the date of an Apple event, the less likely a rumor is to be proven true. Photos of hardware, deep dives into software, and leaks derived from original sources almost always bear fruit; re-blogging of analyst speculation and the latest tripe from Digitimes and other "supply chain sources" almost never does. And despite claims that Ming-Chi Kuo is a "typically accurate" Apple analyst, his track record in 2013 is almost the same as 9to5 Mac's; in other words, approximately half of Kuo's predictions ultimately turn out to be either partially or substantially incorrect.
There are three lessons to learn from all of this:
1. Do follow 9to5 Mac's positive example and rely on primary sources for information about Apple, its products, and its future roadmap. Whoever the people are within Apple who are talking to 9to5 Mac, they know what they're talking about.
2. Don't follow 9to5 Mac's negative example and throw out absolutely every word some analyst or Asian tech publication prints about Apple. These secondary sources almost never have the foggiest clue what they're talking about. Re-posting their nonsense does your site's reputation no favors. All it does is distract from the positive reporting you do (if any)-- the kind that involves actual work beyond simply re-wording someone else's dimwitted press release.
3. Don't mess with the bull. You'll get the horns.
For the sake of completeness and transparency, the full list of 2013's accurate vs. inaccurate/unverifiable 9to5 Mac rumor articles is below, with a special notation (*) any time an accurate article was derived from 9to5 Mac's own sources.
Accurate articles: 73 (30 from original sourcing)
Redesigned 9.7-inch iPad to ship in Q3 with new iPad mini to follow by holiday season? (Holy crap, Digitimes actually got one right! *confetti, mariachi band* )
Inaccurate articles: 91
Apple A6 X processor production reportedly goes from Samsung to TSMC, trial set to begin this quarter - Samsung still manufactures chips for Apple.
What needs to happen for Apple to turn its watch prototypes into a product - "Rumor has it Apple is working on a Bluetooth 4.0-enabled smart watch and could even launch the device as early as the first half of this year." Yeah, not so much.
WSJ once again claims Apple working on less-expensive iPhone, this time for late 2013 - One of many, many articles in 2013 that misclassified the iPhone 5c as a cheap alternative intended to expand Apple's market share, particularly in emerging markets. This was by far the biggest and most sustained rumor blog fail of the year.
Analyst claims both 'thinner and lighter' full-sized iPad and 'similar' iPad mini launching in March - The iPad revisions didn't launch until October. Only off by seven months, Brian White. Good job!
Apple cuts iPhone 5 screen orders in half due to 'weak demand', says WSJ - Tim Cook himself pointed out that this story was typical of the tech press overanalyzing Apple's supply chain and reaching entirely wrong conclusions.
Analyst: Initial iPhone 5S production to begin in March for June/July launch - The iPhone 5s didn't launch until September. Only off by two months, Peter Misek. Good job!
Reuters claims Sharp has all but stopped producing iPad Retina displays - Another classic example of tech publications reaching incorrect conclusions based solely on "sources in the supply chain."
Report claims iPad 5 with iPad mini-like design set for October release, offers new details on upcoming iPhones - "Virtually no left or right bezels, and only enough space above and below the screen to accommodate the mandatory camera and Home Button elements [...] a new screen technology, such as IGZO, seems like a given." Three strikes. You're out.
Retina 'J85′ iPad mini in October, faster 'N51/N53′ iPhone 5S with 13MP Sony camera on target for July? - The iPhone 5s launched in September with an 8-megapixel camera. Oops.
Rumored future iOS device evidence: sketchy iPhone parts photo, 128GB device code - Speculation that the iPhone 5s would come in a 128 GB capacity turned out to be false. Instead, this upgrade found its way to the iPad.
Is this the back of Apple's redesigned fifth-generation iPad? - Nope. Wrong color.
'Radio Buy Buttons' found in iOS 6.1 via newly jailbroken iPads, could mean new functionality coming - These buttons never appeared in IOS 6 or 7.
Apple reportedly tells French reseller that a new Mac Pro is coming in the spring - The Mac Pro was released in December.
The New York Times is back with the curved glass iOS iWatch story (U: WSJ too) - Until or unless a single trace of a component for this device leaks, I consider the iWatch every bit as mythical and non-existent as the long-rumored but never seen Apple HDTV.
Bloomberg's turn on Apple's iWatch: 'Over 100 product designers and growing working on wristwatch-like device' - Apple doesn't even have 100 product designers working for the whole company. Its team of designers is legendarily small and tight-knit.
Analyst: Apple TV development event next month, 4.8-inch iPhone next year - Peter Misek makes yet another laughably incorrect prediction.
Report: Apple to launch 11- and 13-inch Retina MacBook Air in Q3 - The MacBook Air was updated at WWDC, but it doesn't have a Retina Display.
Foxconn reportedly halts hiring due to slow iPhone 5 production, resumes next month (for next iPhone?) - Foxconn itself denied this rumor. For some reason, the "IPhone 5 isn't selling well" meme was pretty strong throughout the first half of 2013.
AAPL share price spikes on rumors of imminent stock split announcement - The stock didn't split. 9to5 Mac made a stab at being skeptical, but why even report this at all? It was obviously nonsense.
Bloomberg: Apple to release its iWatch within 9 months - December 4 came and went with no iWatch. Good one, Bloomberg.
Analyst reaffirms own iPhone 5S with fingerprint sensor & Smart Flash claims, hints at July launch, China Mobile variant - Wrong about the 5s launch date, wrong about the China Mobile variant, wrong about the China Mobile launch date. Wrong about the discontinuation of non-Retina MacBook Pros. Wrong about a tweaked iPod touch. Wrong about a tweaked Apple HDTV. "Typically reliable" analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, everyone!
New iPads in April and iPhone 5S with better camera, faster chip in August? - Wrong on all counts.
Apple to use fingerprint sensor to enhance the security of NFC mobile payments in next iPhone? Apple skipped including NFC technology in the iPhone yet again. Oops.
AAPL Analyst Short of the day: Jefferies' Misek downgrades on expensive low cost iPhone, own casing color prediction unlikelihood - Misek incorrectly predicted multiple colors for the iPhone 5s (the 5c got them instead) and, like everyone else, whiffed it on his prediction of how much the iPhone 5c would cost.
Digitimes says Apple is working on a 4K TV for either later this year or early next year - Predictably, Digitimes got this wrong.
Rumor: Apple to announce a game controller at upcoming event? - Almost immediately "noped" by Jim Dalrymple.
WSJ: Apple beginning production of next iPhone in Q2, 4-inch cheaper iPhone still on track for later in 2013, colors possible - The WSJ incorrectly predicted a summer launch and, once again, misclassified the iPhone 5c as a "cheap" model.
Analyst: Apple HDTV coming this year with 'iRing' motion controller & 'mini iTV' second screen experience - This article proved once and for all that analyst Brian White is not even remotely (heh) worth taking seriously.
'iPhone 5S', cheaper iPhone to come in multiple new colors, July announcement? - Only one new color came out for the 5s, and it wasn't announced in July.
iPhone 5S to reportedly come with 12-megapixel camera, improved low light mode - The iPhone 5s has an 8-megapixel camera.
Budget iPhone rear shell leaked? - While this shell was probably real, the speculation that followed was all wrong: "The alleged budget iPhone will have an A5 processor like the iPad Mini with a 32nm diecast. It's also rumoured it will have a 3.5 inch retina screen, much like the 4S, but not as big as the iPhone 5 ... I've also discovered the factory producing this secretive project have confirmed the device will be available in Black, White, Blue, Red and Yellow." Noooope.
Analyst: New MacBooks across the line expected at WWDC in June, iPad mini price drops - "Typically reliable" analyst Ming-Chi Kuo was wrong again. Only the MacBook Air was updated, and no "low-cost" iPad mini debuted.
Bloomberg: Jony Ive's new software design role could lead to delays for iOS 7 - iOS 7 wasn't delayed.
Apple to test low-cost iPhone in small volumes – (unlikely) supply chain claim - Digitimes is wrong again, sky is still blue.
Will the low-cost iPhone in fact be a $350 mid-level handset? - Turns out the answer was no.
WWDC 2013: Slimmer Retina MacBook Pro w/1080P camera and MacBook Air microphone improvements expected - Ming-Chi Kuo swings and misses again. "Reliable."
Today's amusing analyst rumors ... the iRing is back, and Apple going patent-crazy over iOS 7 - "We're reporting these mainly for entertainment value," 9to5 Mac claims. Also, pageviews.
Reuters: Apple building a $100 iPhone in a variety of colors, planning 5-inch iPhablets for next year - This pricing claim was so far off it's absurd.
Three years later, DigiTimes still insists Apple will ditch Samsung for TSMC - Digitimes is incredibly wrong once again, but of course 9to5 Mac chooses to pass on their "report" anyway.
Will the Plastic iPhone knock the iPhone 4S out of this year's free iPhone pattern? - Turns out the answer was no.
WSJ: Apple struck deal this month with TSMC for iOS device chip production, beginning in 2014 - Any story published in 2013 predicting what will occur in 2014 is, by definition, unverifiable.
Sketchy photos claim to show backplate for rumored low-cost iPhone, iPad 5 schematics - These colors are all wrong. "But maybe Apple was just testing colors" - nope, don't care.
More alleged leaked photos of plastic iPhone shells now show blue variety - This photo was probably the real deal. But 9to5 Mac didn't think so: "While the colors are broadly consistent with those of the iPod touch/nano, and we'd expect to see differences between metal and plastic, those colors look rather garish even allowing for the poor lighting [...] the leaked shells just look a little cheap. Of course, the plastic iPhone is supposed to be cheap [...] the consensus view seems to be that it will be a mid-range handset with a likely price in the $300 to $350 range – perhaps even $400." The consensus view was totally wrong.
2013: The year of the personalized, colorful, mid-tier smartphone - Turns out instead 2013 was the year of inaccurately predicting that the iPhone 5c would be a mid-tier smartphone.
Report vaguely hints at 'aggressive' iWatch team hires, late 2014 debut - Speculative product, 2014 date. There's no way to verify if this is accurate or not.
Report: Upgraded spec, lighter iPad Mini expected later this year, 'almost bezel-free' Retina version next year - Absolutely every single detail in this Digitimes "report" was incorrect.
Digitimes: Initial 'iPhone 5S' shipments to be constrained as fingerprint sensors hit low yield-rates - Digitimes gets no points for predicting sales constraints for a new iPhone, because demand always exceeds supply during the first month, no matter what.
Report: Apple mulling $280M purchase of PrimeSense, the Israeli 3D body sensor firm behind Microsoft Kinect - Apple did eventually buy PrimeSense. But not until many months after this report, which PrimeSense itself denied.
Apple testing 13-inch iPad & bigger iPhone displays, says WSJ - There's absolutely no way to verify the veracity of this claim. You could just as easily claim that Apple is testing cybernetic implants.
Analyst's predictions for 2013: New iPhones to be in short supply, Haswell iMacs/MacBook Pros arriving, no new iPad mini - Ming-Chi Kuo claimed the iPad mini wouldn't be updated in 2013 (wrong) and a Retina model wouldn't launch until March or April of 2013 (wrong). He also claimed iMac updates were coming in August (wrong) and updated MacBook Pros were coming in September (wrong). "Reliable."
Apple has A6-based iPad mini without Retina display in the works - Actually, no. It doesn't.
WSJ: Apple ordering Samsung displays for Retina iPad mini this year, new back colors possible - "Apple is apparently also considering multi-colored back plates for the iPad mini." Not so much.
iPhone 5S to have convex sapphire home button that doubles as a fingerprint reader? - Ming-Chi Kuo expected the 5s Touch ID sensor to be convex rather than concave. The sensor is, in fact, flat. Swing and a miss again for this "accurate" analyst.
Analyst suggests unlikely possibility of no Siri on iPhone 5C to reduce cannibalization - Gene Munster makes a claim that's so out of left field it's obviously not worth taking at face value. 9to5 Mac reported it anyway.
Analyst predicts iPhone 5S with Gold option, larger F2.0 aperture camera and 128GB high-end - Ming-Chi Kuo got most of this right, but he got the 128 GB capacity for the iPhone 5s wrong.
Analyst: US$400-500 iPhone 5C will hit China Mobile in Q3 and replace the iPhone 5 globally in Q4 - Ming-Chi Kuo got the 5c's price wrong, its debut date at China Mobile wrong, and the discontinuation date of the iPhone 5 wrong. "Reliable."
Report: Apple negotiating w/ media companies for pay TV service, working on full-fledged TV set - Absolutely nothing else came out to corroborate this report.
Approvals process will delay iPhone 5C launch in China until end of November – rumor - The iPhone 5c launched in China in September.
Stock shortages suggest possible new iMac and Airport Express on the way - The iMac was updated. The AirPort Express was not.
Canadian carrier Telus will discontinue 32 and 64GB iPhone 5 on September 28th, 16GB to remain on as mid-tier? - The iPhone 5 was discontinued entirely.
KGI's Ming-Chi Kuo provides details on new iPads coming in Q4 - Ming-Chi Kuo continually insisted the new iPads would have an "A7X" processor. Both models have an A7 processor.
WSJ: Apple testing larger iPhone screens, some up to six inches - There's no way to verify if this is true or not.
People are saying the iPod classic dies this year...again - Apple still sells the iPod Classic.
2014 iPhone will sport 4.5-5 inch screen, says analyst Ming-Chi Kuo - While there's no way to verify this report, given the so-called "accuracy" of this analyst, I'm not betting any money on this claim.
Will iPhone 5S act as an electronic wallet? Combined fingerprint/NFC patent suggests that it might - The iPhone 5s doesn't have NFC. Strike!
New Apple TV in development, could arrive as soon as next month - No new Apple TV model debuted. Oops.
Rumeur: Apple's next event to be held on October 15th? - Nope. It was October 22.
Space Gray coming to an iPad Mini 2 near you? (Champagne too?) - Space Grey, yes. Gold, no.
Apple claimed to be working with Quanta Computer to build larger iPad - Unverifiable rumor is unverifiable.
Can Apple announce the rest of 2013′s products in just one event? - Turns out the answer was yes. Mostly because five of the 13 items on this list never saw the light of day.
Chinese site shows two photos of claimed gold iPad Mini 2 with Touch ID - The iPad mini doesn't come in gold.
Reuters: Retina iPad mini supplies will be constrained, full production now pushed into 2014 - "Full production" must have occurred well before 2014, because all models of the Retina iPad mini now ship within 24 hours.
Report claims iPad 5 & Retina iPad mini will sport 8MP rear cameras w/ larger aperture - Ming-Chi Kuo is wrong again. The iPad's rear camera is still 5 megapixels.
Report claims both likely & unlikely display changes for future Apple devices - Absolutely none of these claims can be verified, and none are expected until 2014.
Questionable analyst roundup: 10M home automation iWatches? 12-inch MacBook Air and much more - In spite of recognising these analyst claims as "questionable," 9to5 Mac passed them on anyway.
Coming from Apple in 2014: 12-inch Retina MacBook, sharper iPad, cheaper iMac? - None of these Ming-Chi Kuo claims for 2014 can be verified, and given his actual accuracy record, I'd expect no more than half of them to actually come true.
Report: New MacBook Pros on sale Oct 24/25, iPads Oct 30/31, Mac Pro Nov 15 - All of these dates were wrong.
Wall Street Journal backs up analyst reports that Apple is reducing component orders for iPhone 5c - None of these "iPhone 5c component orders reduced" reports have ever been independently verified.
Apple event predictions from KGI: Thinner, lighter A7X iPad 5 w/improved cam but no gold or TouchID. Also A7 iPad Mini w/Retina, Haswell MacBook Pros - Ming-Chi Kuo was wrong again about the A7X and the 8-megapixel camera for the iPad. Can't win 'em all.
Former Apple employee: Apple worked on Surface-style keyboard cover for iPad, could announce at 'haven't covered everything' event - No such product was announced.
Another report claims short supply of Retina iPad mini due to display shortages from Sharp - There's no way of knowing if this report was correct or not, but given that it comes from Digitimes, the smart money is on "not."
Apple working to slim its iWatch via intermittent Bluetooth LE connection? - Speculative post about purely speculative product.
Bloomberg: Apple to introduce larger, curved screen iPhones in Q3 2014, enhanced pressure sensors for later models - Considering how often Bloomberg's claims about Apple's roadmap turn out to be inaccurate, let's just say I'm skeptical.
Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo expects A7-based Apple TV in 2014, television set in 2015-2016 - Not content to predict Apple's roadmap for the next year, Ming-Chi Kuo stares into the sun long enough to divine Apple's plans a full three years into the future! What will he think of next?
Report claims 12.9-inch panel for larger iPad already in production, release early next year - No way to verify if this is true or not. Yet.
Now 4.9″ iPhone 6 prototype makes rumor rounds -Poll: what size are you hoping for? - Again, there's no way of verifying this claim.
Opinion: Will Apple return to a single MacBook range next year? - Wrongheaded analysis is wrongheaded.
Opinion: Is Apple headed toward eventual convergence of OS X and iOS? - Short answer? No. Long answer? Noooooooooooooo.
12.9-inch iPad rumor is back with launch date, early launch for larger size iPhone included - And just to round things out, another completely unverifiable claim from abysmally unreliable Digitimes.
Khan said it best: "You should have let me sleep."
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