Opinion: Excessive Leaks & Hype Rollercoasters Ruin Launch Events
The long awaited Nex-mas passed by swiftly, with a day filled with announcements of all sorts of devices; Chromecasts, a new masquerading Nexus Tablet, and of course, the new Nexus phones. Now we have even more tech to drool over and carefully follow up until they get to our laps, so all that’s left is to wait.
But reflecting upon this last month – and the past week in particular – I found myself slightly disappointed at the unveiling of these phones.
Leaks and rumors are nothing new, and in part, these fuel the speculation, debate and news posts of various publications and communities. But this past year saw many of its big releases leaked to hell and back, resulting in a not-so-satisfying launch. It wouldn’t be a problem if, for example, we were kept guessing up until the last moment. This happened with the M9, as everyone hoped the sleek @evleaks renders would become the final design. The disappointment came with the M9’s actual design, which confirmed other popular leaks flying around.
But leaks also have many utilities and benefits not many actively realise: if, for example, I was on the verge of purchasing a new handset simply because I am sick of waiting, but at the same time I would really like to upgrade to an unannounced phone which we know little about, convincing or otherwise tentative leaks can help me restrain from that impulse purchase. Reputable leakers should still not be trusted 100% nor be given a free pass on skepticism, but at the same time, clearly-marked trends in the leak-sphere are usually closer to the truth than any individual leak. It’s hard, though, to decipher plausibility from forgery in terms of leaks, because leaks themselves cannot be proved genuine unless a trusted source is disclosed. As a result, the “trend” could be nothing but other leakers repeating a trending leak for further exposure and to not risk one’s reputation so severely if proven wrong.
Leaks should be interpreted responsibly, because it’s easy to get carried away by hype or misinterpretations
Because of the nature of its sources, we ultimately rely on the leakers’ reputation and the word of publications. While this doesn’t seem like a strong case for believing leaks, many predictions have been accurate, even when these tend to flip-flop within short time-scales. The more concrete leaks (such as pictures and the like) can be doctored too, but we saw several designs leaked to perfection nevertheless. Specification sheets are even easier to fake — one can just make up a list or again, photoshop a benchmark. Looking at trends in hardware – particularly silicon – is easy, and given that up until now a few companies held monopolies, predicting SoCs for flagships has never been hard.
This leads me onto the effects of leaks in the Android community. As previously said, leaks have their benefits, and among others not mentioned above we have the amazing discussions that they can foster. At the same time, leaks should be interpreted responsibly, because it’s easy for masses of fans to get carried away by hype or misinterpret the dissociated specifications from single or multiple leaks, something which we call “hardware dyslexia”. Because of this hysteria, speculation or interpreted leaks can lead to false conclusions even if the leaks themselves are true, especially when it comes to things such as performance.
“The Nexus announcement had us going down the checklist of items we expected.”
This event, in particular had advocates for both the Nexus 6P and the Nexus 5X, which seemingly traded sides as the mobs of angry enthusiasts saw each promising or disfavorable leak. And boy were they plenty. Each new leak brought a question with it, and the finer details of each reveal were proven wrong, then right, then wrong. Does it have OIS? Is it AMOLED? Is there wireless charging?!
Those finer details did eventually get released, but everything else, and arguably the meat of the phone, were things we expected. And that is the problem when leak hysteria gets out of hand: rather than raise expectations, the surplus of leaks diminished anticipation by eliminating much of the surprise element. There were still many nice details to hear about during the live announcement, mind you; there were even nicer surprises after, such as the brilliant slow-mo video showcase. But other than that, the event felt like going through bulletpoints we already knew we were while going down the checklist of items we expected.
There is nothing wrong with leaks themselves, and I hope nobody interprets these thoughts in an inherently negative light. Leaks aren’t the cause of these hype rollercoasters nor of event disappointment, but rather the nature of commercial hype on a collective of eager fans, especially when factoring in the enthusiasm we have for our hobby. As much as we say that each leak should be taken with a grain of salt, or that it’s non-final information, or that the leak is still a leak, it can’t be ignored that these often hold plausible information and with subsequent leaks, said information only cements itself further in the expectations of fans.
Our passion for Android is what makes us want to savor every detail, but sometimes we let others do the chewing for us
I think that the answer to hype hysteria is to simply be objective and to help manage the community’s expectations through reasonable arguments. For example, the reveal of a 3,000mAh battery of the Note5 automatically led many to dismiss the device as having awful battery life, but we argued that the more-efficient components would mitigate the consequences slashed capacity… and it did.
This ties again into hardware dyslexia, because being objective can help one tame expectations with informed (yet not necessarily perfect) predictions. Something similar happened with the OnePlus 2’s battery life, although inversely: we argued that because of more inefficient components (read, the Snapdragon 810), the OnePlus 2 would see slightly worse battery life than its predecessor despite its bigger battery, a problem only augmented by the charging solutions inside. And, as predicted, this was the case.
So, to summarize, I believe leaks are great tools for our communities, the blogosphere, and all consumers therein. But at the same time, the hype should never go unchecked. It’s a delight to see it be mitigated after falses promises get called out, or after the narrative is so mismanaged that nobody can believe it anymore (as was the case with much of OnePlus’ marketing). But sometimes, we let our hype get out of hand — and I am often as guilty as anyone. Our passion for Android is what makes us want to savor every detail, but sometimes we let others do the chewing for us. So my proposal is we keep the communal hype in check next year, as hard as it could be, so that we can enjoy the next Nexus treat the way it’s meant to!