Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

9to5Mac Obtains Promotional Photos of Apple Watch Series 4, iPhone XS

You’ve probably seen the images of the new Apple Watch and iPhones published by 9to5Mac. Unlike most leaks, these aren’t parts or sketchy spy photos, nor are they firmware or operating system leaks — these are promotional images designed to be used on Apple’s website and in marketing materials. They’re also noteworthy for another reason: neither Zac Hall nor Guilherme Rambo disclosed their source for these images in any capacity.

The American Press Institute:

Transparency means show your work so readers can decide for themselves why they should believe it.

  • Don’t allow your audience to be deceived by acts of omission — tell them as much as you can about the story they are reading.

  • Tell the audience what you know and what you don’t know. Never imply that you have more knowledge than you actually do.

  • Tell the audience who your sources are, how they are in a position to know something, and what their potential biases might be.

In other words, reporters are obligated to tell readers what they know, and also how they know it. It is only in very rare cases that this guideline will be broken. I don’t see anyone doubting the veracity of these images, and I certainly am not, so their validity is entirely driven by the credibility of the reporters.

Rambo is uniquely gifted at picking through Apple’s software releases for information about forthcoming products, but these images didn’t come from software. These are graphics that you can expect on Apple’s marketing webpages for these products, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence they were leaked on the same day as the company announced the event where they will, presumably, officially unveil these products. This is entirely speculative; I don’t have any more specific information directly about these graphics. It’s just an especially curious situation because Apple’s marketing team pretty much never leaks.1 Final product names are only known by a relatively small group of people until they’re said on stage, and they, too, almost never leak. The team at 9to5Mac is reasonably confident that “iPhone Xs” is the name of the next iPhone.2 My guess is that these images were loaded onto an obscure-but-unprotected CDN and someone told 9to5Mac or Rambo, directly, where to look — perhaps not even an Apple employee, but someone very well-placed.

I’m not trying to out a source here. I’m curious about the way such a surprisingly thorough leak could occur. I’m also trying to understand why other forthcoming products, like the rumoured 6.1-inch LCD-based iPhone and the new all-screen iPad Pro, were not leaked at the same time.

Recall that 9to5Mac first made waves by leaking a marketing image of the third-generation iPod Nano in 2007.

Update: I was wrong. Rambo just guessed the URLs.


  1. A noteworthy exception to this was when Power Mac G5 specs were published on Apple’s website a couple of weeks prior to its announcement. ↩︎

  2. Per my house style, I won’t be lowercasing the s↩︎