It's increasingly difficult for Apple to surprise fans at its keynote presentation thanks to persistent leaks. But this year proved even more leaky than usual, thanks largely to Apple itself. AppleInsider offers a recap of the iPhone X and iPhone 8 rumor cycle, with a breakdown of who got what right — and wrong.
This all happened before
AppleInsider gave a recap of the iPhone 7 rumor cycle after the handset's unveiling last year, and the story remains largely the same this year with one major exception: The iOS 11 golden master and HomePod firmware leaks. Without them, there still would have been a few lingering questions heading into Tuesday's event, and Apple would have had a few surprises up its sleeve.
Outside of Apple's own software security policies, the Apple product rumor cycle followed its usual pattern for the iPhone X and iPhone 8.
We've known for a few years that Apple planned to introduce a redesigned iPhone with edge-to-edge OLED display and new facial recognition technology. Many of the finer points became much clearer and more accurate as the unveiling approached.
Usually this happens because parts and details leak from Apple's massive supply chain, which the company must outsource to meet crushing global demand for its popular products. Software leaks are, historically, less common — until this year.
As a result, Apple's iPhone X and iPhone 8 unveiling, which also marked the debut of the Apple Watch Series 3 and Apple TV 4K, once again lacked any major surprises — at least, not for those who read AppleInsider.
Ming-Chi Kuo: Hit or miss
If we're talking rumors, we have to talk about KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who is simultaneously respected and reviled in the Apple rumor community. Kuo has an extremely strong track record in predicting Apple's future product plans, and correctly forecast many of the new features of the iPhone 8 and iPhone X months ahead of others.
But Kuo is also far from perfect, as evidenced by some significant misses he made this year.
Rumor trackers would be ill-advised to outright dismiss Kuo, but it's fair to view his leaks with some skepticism. Considering most of the iPhone X and iPhone 8 secrets were known ahead of time this year, we'll start first with what Kuo actually got wrong.
Most notably, he said in August that the iPhone X would launch alongside the iPhone 8 and would come in a total of three colors. He was wrong on both counts: The iPhone X won't be available until November, and it's only available in shades of black and white.
While he nailed the iPhone X screen size well ahead of anyone else (we'll get to that later), at one point he muddied the waters by suggesting that the display would have a dedicated function area not accessible to apps. As a result, he claimed that apps would only be able to tap into a 5.15-inch area of the display.
As it turns out, aside from a thin bar at the bottom of the screen replacing the physical home button, Apple not only allows but encourages apps to take up the entire screen, at least visually, including the spaces to the left and right of the camera/earpiece notch. There is no dedicated function area — Kuo was flat-out wrong.
Finally, he also waffled on whether or not the iPhone X would have Touch ID — though prior to Tuesday's announcement he showed skepticism that it would be included, noting in July that Apple faced "technical challenges" in embedding Touch ID into the display. Of course, it's possible that Kuo's course correction occurred because Apple itself changed plans over the development of the iPhone X. We'll never know for sure.
Despite those high-profile misses, Kuo was still the first to report on specifics about the iPhone X and iPhone 8, in many cases well in advance of other supply chain leaks.
Notably, it was in March of 2016 that Kuo first indicated the iPhone X would boast a 5.8-inch OLED display — something that proved accurate a full year and a half later.
Arguably his biggest leak, and some of the most accurate supply chain details he shared, were regarding the facial recognition technology branded as Face ID. Kuo detailed the game changing technology in a note to investors in February, revealing that it would work in the dark and allow new augmented reality applications, even before ARKit was announced.
He was also the first to differentiate between a 5.5-inch LCD model and a 5.8-inch OLED one at a time when some rumors claimed the iPhone X would supplant the iPhone 8 Plus.
As for the iPhone 8, Kuo first reported in September of 2016 that the dual-lens camera would remain exclusive to the Plus model, with the 4.7-inch variety keeping a single lens. He also revealed in November of last year that the iPhone 8 would switch to a new glass back, and followed up by noting that all 2017 iPhones would support wireless charging.
He was also the first to report in March of this year that all of Apple's 2017 iPhones would include fast charging via Lightning port. Apple revealed on Tuesday that the iPhone 8 series and iPhone X can get a 50 percent recharge in 30 minutes with a USB-C to Lightning cable and higher wattage adapter, such as the 29-watt brick for the 12-inch MacBook.
Those predictions came well in advance of the event, but he also chimed in just before the announcement, revealing Apple would not sell its own wireless chargers at the iPhone 8 and iPhone X launches and would instead rely on third-party partners. He was right: Apple's own wireless charging pad won't launch until 2018.
Outside of the iPhone, Kuo also reaffirmed that the Apple Watch Series 3 would have a version with cellular connectivity and that it would have the same form factor as its predecessors.
But he also whiffed big time in August, when he said the Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular might not support voice calls at launch.
In reality, a voice call demo was arguably the most memorable portion of the Series 3 unveiling this week, putting Kuo's bogus claim to shame in rather spectacular fashion.
Nailed it: Apple itself, thanks to iOS diggers Steven Troughton-Smith and Guilherme Rambo
Most of what we knew about the iPhone X and iPhone 8 heading into Tuesday's event wasn't as a result of supply chain leaks or rumors.
In fact, the one thing Apple can usually keep secret are software-specific functions, as all of Apple's software development is done in-house. That all changed this year, after a rogue employee allegedly leaked the golden master of iOS 11 last week.
They were prepared, in part, because of an earlier, separate leak from Apple, when the HomePod firmware was accidentally published online. Between the iOS 11 GM and the HomePod firmware, very few mysteries were left ahead of this week's keynote presentation.
In fact, aside from the launch date of the iPhone X, virtually everything about Apple's upcoming products was known in advance, including the names, designs, features and more.
Apple's iOS 11 GM and HomePod firmware leaks were unprecedented, and will likely lead to major changes in how Apple internally shares software.
Macotakara: Good scoops
While most reports were claiming the iPhone X would launch alongside the iPhone 8, Japanese publication Macotakara weighed in in July and said it may not launch until October or November. That proved right: Preorders for the iPhone X begin Oct. 27 ahead of a Nov. 3 launch.
The site also reported that there would be no white bezel option on the iPhone X, just a black border around the display. That was also correct.
A few weeks ago, Macotakara also indicated the iPhone 8 and iPhone X wireless charging would top out at 7.5 watts. Apple hasn't given technical specs on the inductive charging limits of the iPhones, but the first authorized charging pads are 7.5 watts, suggesting the report was correct.
Macotakara did get the phone's name wrong, however, betting on the name "iPhone Edition."
Still, many of its predictions were outside of the normal supply chain chatter, proving accurate with unique, exclusive scoops, rather than rehashing what's already known.
Bloomberg: Late but reliable
Bloomberg's team of tech reporters, led by recent hire Mark Gurman, came through with some reliable information on this year's products. It just so happened that most of that reporting followed supply chain rumors, firmware leaks, or notes issued by Kuo.
Notably, the news outlet weighed in in April on the redesign of the iPhone X, complete with cover glass curving into a stainless steel frame. The news of a redesign echoed numerous earlier reports, some of which were made months prior.
The publication also correctly indicated in July that the iPhone X would see Face ID replace Touch ID. That declaration, however, came after weeks of reports saying Apple had problems integrating Touch ID into the new OLED display.
They also correctly predicted in August that Apple would launch the Apple TV 4K at Tuesday's event, and also identified 4K support. However, support for 4K and HDR had already been revealed in the aforementioned HomePod firmware leak.
Bloomberg's two biggest scoops came recently, less than two weeks before the iPhone X unveiling. The publication was the first to report that Apple had no plans to hide the so-called "notch" atop the iPhone X display, and also was the first to reveal that the iPhone X would use gesture controls, and not a virtual home button, for navigating its edge-to-edge OLED display.
Bloomberg did get a few things wrong, though they were always covered by bet hedging. For example, one report suggested this year's iPhones could get the same 120Hz ProMotion display as the latest iPad Pros, while another said some iPhone X prototypes featured aluminum backs. Neither panned out, but neither was presented with authority.
Regardless of timeliness and caveats, Bloomberg gets points for accuracy: Its scoops provided generally reliable information on upcoming products ahead of their unveiling.
Gruber: A poor prognosticator (this time, at least)
High-profile Apple blogger John Gruber of Daring Fireball weighed in with a few takes on Apple's upcoming products, including a claim in early August that the Apple Watch Series 3 would boast an all-new form factor. After the initial post was made, Gruber quickly updated to note that the information came from an "unconfirmed little birdie." It was wrong.
Gruber's birdies couldn't take the fall for a post he made just prior to the iPhone X event, in which he offered personal speculation on how to pronounce the device before Apple made it official. Gruber made a case for it to be called the "iPhone ex," but he was again wrong. Apple went with "iPhone ten," leaving users to question when and where the "iPhone 9" will arrive.
To Gruber's credit, he didn't shy away from his blunders: "Well, you can't win them all," he posted after Tuesday's event.
He also took Kuo to task for getting the size and resolution of the iPhone X display wrong, even before the product was officially announced. Unlike his other predictions this go around, Gruber's pixel math on the iPhone X proved correct — albeit with the aid of Apple's HomePod firmware leak.
Gruber was also one of the first to report on the edge-to-edge display of the iPhone X, way back in May of 2016, though he incorrectly claimed the Touch ID sensor, earpiece and forward facing camera would "somehow be embedded in the display." Rather than hiding them in the display (something that may not even be technically possible to do), Apple embraced the notch.
The cycle never ends: What to expect in 2018
Yes, the iPhone X and iPhone 8 were just announced, and you cannot get your hands on them yet. But that hasn't stopped the rumor mill from hinting at what is to come.
Virtually every person and publication mentioned in this roundup has already either cited sources or made predictions regarding next year's handsets.
Some reports claim that Apple hopes to have all OLED screens next year. Some have offered conjecture that a so-called "iPhone X Plus" could arrive in 2018. And will there be an iPhone 9? Or iPhone X2?
Apple's legendary dedication to secrecy is a major part of the company's appeal, helping to fuel rumors, speculation and passionate debate that keep fans of the company engaged and excited. And as long as Apple continues to innovate and delight, even the most spoiler-filled leaks will not break that cycle.