Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Leak Deja Vu

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: 9to5Mac and MacRumors have, apparently, obtained part of a prerelease build of a forthcoming version of iOS and have reverse-engineered it to reveal unannounced features and products. Spoilers follow, obviously.

Over the weekend, Steven Troughton-Smith tweeted:

Sure sounds like that iOS 14 filesystem from those recently-pictured devices is floating around; last I heard, it was a December 2019 build, so information coming out of it may be a little less concrete and less reliable than something more recent. I have not seen it myself, tho

After it stopped “floating around”, it seems to have landed at the same two websites that also got a copy of the iOS 11 and HomePod OS builds that, famously, revealed the iPhone X. This year, MacRumors has so far published stories about iMessage, OCR capabilities, voice synthesizers, new fitness features, and the much leaked AirTag. 9to5Mac has published its own series of pieces: new headphones, WatchOS features, Apple Watch hardware, and new iPad Smart Keyboard capabilities.

As an aside, I immensely dislike both sites’ tendency of wrapping each feature in its own article and slowly dripping these pieces over what will ultimately be several weeks.

Nevertheless, a curious thing about the reporting from both of these sites is that neither one acknowledges how they obtained details from an apparently months-old iOS 14 build. When the iOS 11 golden master build was leaked in 2017, MacRumors openly admitted that they were sent the download link, but skirted the obvious next step of describing who provided it. This year, there’s even less detail: all either site is saying is that they have “leaked iOS 14 code”. No source; no details about whether that constitutes a full build.

It’s common for new features to be described in whole or in part; it’s uncommon to see leaked screenshots, but it happens every so often. Leaks of non-public code are extraordinarily rare, and it’s understandable why both sites would want to protect what is presumably an Apple internal source. For that to go entirely unacknowledged, however, is bizarre.