Leaker who reveals Apple's products before they come out tired of 'absurd rumours'
French tech site editor says most 'pseudo-leakers' on Weibo are just sharing leaks they find elsewhere
Apple can't keep a secret anymore.
Because it needs to make so many iPhones to meet considerable demand, its partner factories start cranking out parts as early as the spring in anticipation of a fall launch.
And when a factory is cranking parts, photos will get out — and the person who's been posting more of them than anyone else lately is Steve Hemmerstoffer, editor of Nowhereelse.fr.
Recently, he's been posting leaks on the Twitter account OnLeaks, and they've been mostly accurate. For example, he posted accurate measurements of the design of Apple's iPhone SE before it came out this spring and Apple's iPad Pro last year.
He also posts pre-release photos of high-profile Android phones, too.
Hemmerstoffer was asked about how he finds his leaks, how to spot fake leaks, and what the leaking "game" is like.
You’re Steve Hemmerstoffer, editor of Nowhereelse.fr, and also moonlight as OnLeaks. Is posting technology leaks your full-time job?
I am the editor and the writer of the site Nowhereelse.fr, a position I've held full-time for 10 years.
For several years, I relayed leaks and rumors I had discovered on other blogs, news sites, forums, and social networks. I've been able to weave little by little my own network of informants.
Thanks to these leaks, which I generally discovered before the others, my site was quickly internationally known. The fact that my articles are all written in French was obviously a problem for my foreign visitors. That’s why I finally decided, early 2015, to create a Twitter account, @OnLeaks, where I share my own leaks exclusively in English.
I’m always afraid of posting leaks unless they’re from a reliable source. How can you tell a fake?
The techniques that allow us to discern between real and fake leaks are obviously numerous, but nothing will ever replace experience and common sense.
I spend about two to three hours a day on this activity. I browse a large number of sites, forums, and social media on which I discover daily more or less credible leaks.
Thus, I know perfectly well how reliable most of the pseudo-leakers on Weibo [a Chinese social network] and other sites are. I can now detect fakes at first glance.
It often happens that someone finds a photo on the Internet and then retouches it in an effort to pass it off as an authentic leaked photo. The most simple and accessible method of detecting this (that curiously, few of my colleagues use) is to perform a reverse Google image search using this supposed stolen photo.
This technique is effective not only by revealing an eventual Photoshop, but also by allowing us to find the original source and its first publication. I add this because, to my mind, spending time in researching original sources to cite — not who discretely stole the contents from others — is essential.
In short, to detect a fake, one should:
1.Show first of all common sense and estimate the probability that such a leak is real.
2.Then, make sure it is not a photo montage by using a reverse Google image search.
3.Try finally to get to the original source and verify its reliability by perusing its previous publications.
You tweeted a funny line recently that 99 per cent of bloggers & so self-called journalists don’t know about leaks.
Haha, I indeed shared this view because I am tired seeing most of my colleagues sharing leaks and completely absurd rumours without even trying to verify if they are true.
Leaks drive a great amount of traffic. I understand that the temptation is huge, but relaying all and any unverified information damages those sites, and more generally breaks the readers’ trust regarding leaks.
I don’t want you to give up your sources, but how does the leaking "game" work? Do these photos come from factory workers — and why do they send them to you or post on Weibo?
In a large majority of cases, people who share indiscretions do so without a second thought, as the aim is to engage a discussion within the community on a forum or social network. By the way, many of them hope obviously to get notorious.
Also, workers who encounter difficulty with the production of spare parts or the assembly of devices look for help on more specialised and obscure forums.
To illustrate their subject, they sometimes publish photos without imagining the risk that a snooper like me could discover it. I’d like to specify that, contrary to what everyone thinks, the leaks that circulate on Weibo come mostly often from other platforms.
Certainly, Weibo is an excellent platform to discover leaks, but those we can find daily on Weibo have most of the time been shared by users who themselves found them elsewhere.
Do sources get paid?
This question is naturally sensitive, I prefer not to comment on this subject…
Has Apple or any other tech company ever got in touch with you or threatened you?
Yes. Rarely, but it has happened.
That being said, it’s never gone beyond a simple intimidation effort by mail or a phone call from a lawyer.
Lately, there seems to be a lot more schematics leaks. Why do you think this is?
I’m not able to explain this phenomenon but, if i’m not mistaken, I am most of the time at the origin of this type of leak, which have I made my specialty.
Why don't we see more Apple Watch leaks?
The suppliers of components and other subcontractors working for the watch are not yet clearly identified. Thus, this makes the search for information more difficult than for the iPhone, for which multiple companies are well known and perfectly identified.
@pauljbarton If "production started" means 1st testing stage,then the report is late.If that means final/mass production,the report is wrong
— OnLeaks (@OnLeaks) May 16, 2016
Why will leakers on the scene have a lot of leaks one year and then fewer the next?
The reason for such irregularities can be explained simply by the nature and the situation of the sources involved. An employee is fired or leaves his job, a supplier of spare parts receives threats from a manufacturer, an accessories maker stops his activity, etc. It may happen, for a host of reasons, that a source simply no longer wants or is no longer able to provide information.
Who are some other leakers you follow?
First of all, I'd like to specify that I don’t believe sharing leaks found on a Chinese forum makes you a "leaker."
Anyone can enter a key word into Weibo, find a photo, get and share it (often without quoting the original source.)
In my view, a worthy leaker is an expert who has his own sources within the industry.
From the subcontractors who provide me photos of components, to the telecommunications companies employees from whom I obtain press renders, to the accessories makers who sent me industrial schematics and CADs, I am for my part lucky to have many privileged, faithful, and very reliable contacts throughout the production line.
Fortunately for me, weaving such a network of informants is a long-term project not within the reach of all.
Regarding his profile, Evan Blass remains for me the incontestable reference in what I like to call "the leaking game".
We've had disputes in the past, to the delight of our respective followers, but we have both finally stopped that stupid and useless fight. Moreover, we recently had a kind of friendly and funny game of one-upmanship on HTC 10 leaks.
As I often say, the leaking game isn't an exact science. There is no flawless leaker and even the best fails sometimes. That's part of the game, we all have to deal with it.
What do you think the iPhone 7 will be like?
It’s not a secret for anyone anymore, but in case you still have doubts, the next iPhone will be aesthetically very close to the iPhone 6S.
Details such as the size of the rear sensor, the design of the antenna strips or moreover the probable lack of the headphones jack, will be what distinguish it from the two earlier generations.
The only element that still sparks some debate is the eventual presence of a second loudspeaker instead of the headphone jack.
Apple has tested many prototypes during these last months, and it’s still difficult to be certain on this subject at this stage, but it’s possible that several versions will ultimately be marketed.
One thing is certain in any case, and almost confirmed by several insiders: the real change will be carried out next year, for the 10th anniversary of the iPhone.
FOLLOW STEVE AT @ONLEAKS AND CHECK OUT THE LEAKS:This is the best look at the iPhone's body so far:
— Steve Hemmerstoffer (@stagueve) June 25, 2016
— Steve Hemmerstoffer (@stagueve) June 25, 2016
Sometimes leaks seemingly conflict each other, because Apple tests multiple prototypes:
— OnLeaks (@OnLeaks) June 10, 2016
Sometimes, Hemmerstoffer posts molds and CAD designs from accessory makers.
— Steve Hemmerstoffer (@stagueve) June 17, 2016
Just this year, he's accurately leaked two Apple products. The iPhone SE...
— OnLeaks (@OnLeaks) February 24, 2016
— Steve Hemmerstoffer (@stagueve) February 27, 2016
...And what eventually was released as the 9.7-inch iPad Pro:
— Steve Hemmerstoffer (@stagueve) January 23, 2016
Hemmerstoffer doesn't just leak Apple parts — sometimes he gets Android scoops too.