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“Rumor has it”: The fine line between fact and fiction in mobile tech

Ah, the fine line between (credible) leaks and (hoax-like) gossip.

This fine line is getting thinner by the hour, and harder to distinguish. That’s especially true for the leaks/rumors bonanza we’ve been feasting on in the last few weeks: from the alleged Gmail shutting down hoax, to the mess with the Nothing Phone (2a) design, to Google serving as a muse for the iPhone 16’s camera island.

The air is thick with speculation about what’s next in the pipeline from the giants.

Let’s take a flight to uncharted territory, and dissect the very nature of these leaks and rumors: what do they mean, besides the claims they’re making? Are these speculations nothing more than a byproduct of the hyper-connected times we’re living in… or do they serve a more calculated purpose in the grand chessboard of tech launches?

Also, do such leaks affect the smartphone market – do they fascinate and frustrate users and potential buyers to the point it alters their shopping behavior?

Let’s go!

The anatomy of a leak

Leaks, much like leeks, are great – they add flavor to the main ingredients. Leaks, in principle, are very different from rumors and, naturally, from hoaxes.

All in all, a leak can be considered every unauthorized release of information that’s before its intended official announcement (a.k.a. what many X/Twitter users are posting on their accounts, often behind funny pseudonyms). Also, leaks can be findings in certification sites and listings, where obscure model numbers and monikers are used to represent devices that are later known as “Galaxy S24” or “Google Pixel 8 Pro”.

While leaks are grounded in more or less tangible information, rumors are not-so-rarely made up of equal parts hearsay, conjecture, and Homo sapiens sapiens’ ineradicable tendency to fill in the blanks. Yes, rumors do tend to turn up true, but can also fail spectacularly.

Like the Nothing Phone (2a) design controversy: some days ago, it became known that the first image renders of Carl Pei’s upcoming budget champ are dead wrong; a second round of renders showcased the device in its real form.

Google’s Pixel Fold 2 had something similar happen to it: last week, new leaked renders showed the upcoming book style handset will feature a significant design shift from earlier reports towards a rectangular camera bump.

From hype to hoaxes

Sometimes, a mountain is made out of a molehill. Sometimes, a grain of truth is mixed with a load of junk, and a hoax is born: just the other day, somebody saw that Google is set to eclipse the Basic HTML view on Gmail in 2024. This was immediately turned into a “Google is killing Gmail in 2024” hoax that spread over the social media networks, and many fell for it.

“Coincidence? I think not.”

Sometimes, the leaked information is just another marketing strategy from the phone maker itself – the controlled spewing of information can stoke the public’s attention and interest. If brands are rational about it, such company-driven leaks can be of great help. If they are not, however, things could go south.

Leaks can be great for publicity. On the other hand, if the rumors are too hot, they could, in theory, jeopardize the current models on sale by overshadowing them. Some people, caught in the wave of excitement, may choose to delay their purchase: if rumors about the “next big thing” are so enchanting, they could just wait for what’s about to launch in a few months’ time and not get the current thing.

Or, teased and thrilled by leaks and rumors, some people can simply not have the nerves to wait any longer, and they buy the current thing. I think companies don’t care that much if you buy their 2023, or 2024 model – hey, as long as you’re purchasing their product and not the competitor’s!

This waiting game is purely a psychological one – the thrill of getting the latest and greatest is not to be underestimated as a market driver.

It’s not like the brands themselves haven’t spilled the beans on their own products. Just to name a few examples:

Being rational with the irrational

I genuinely think that leaks and rumors – even the dubious ones – can be useful (given that they don’t cross the line and go over to the hoaxes’ territory).Rumors and leaks are an attempt of future-reading; they contain useful information, they can be thought of as a sort of gold vein.

And just as the gold doesn’t come up from the earth by itself and has to be processed, the same rules apply in the mobile tech realm.

It’s up to us as logical creatures to sift through the news cycle and to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Avoiding clickbait leaks is easy – I’m sure you can spot it from miles. The hard part is resisting the urge to succumb to the addictive nature of the leaks.

That being said, did you check the latest rumor about the iPhone 16 Pro’s camera design?

It’s wild.

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