A little while back, we got a picture in the tips line of a 128GB iPod touch with a capacitive home screen button. Shortly afterwards, we got a second picture, much clearer, which we quickly determined was fake — retroactively showing the earlier one to be a fake as well (we suspected, but it was too blurry to really prove one way or the other). All in good fun: the debunking of a fake Apple device.
I suspected it was the same person behind both photos, and indeed, in our tip line today comes an email from the faker himself (or herself) talking about how easy it was to make a fake and get it on all the biggest gadget sites of the net.
It's really not too surprising – with tools like GIMP available for free on the internet, it's just a matter of spending a little time making it look good. I've done a few in my time. For instance, I made this one for April Fools, but we never used it:
You should try it, too — really. It's fun! And if we can't tell the difference between a fake and a real device, well, that's on us, right?
At any rate, here's his email to us, which I'm printing in its entirety here because it's kind of a fun story.
This has been fun. Not so long ago, I saw some leaked pictures of a 64GB iPhone. Naturally, I was intrigued by the idea of this. In fact, I was intrigued so much that I decided to try my hand at leaked photos. Why not make a 128GB iPod touch sporting a capacitive home button? It was a fun challenge. So I greased up my iPod touch, pulled out my old camera, and snapped some shaky shots. Even though I was almost entirely new to GIMP, the whole process only took an hour or two. At this point, I decided to turn my endeavor into an experiment. I figured that after all my work, I might as well submit the pictures to some news sites. As a reader of the rumor sites, it was an obvious choice. I had no doubt that the pictures would get published. Sure enough, within hours of submitting them, they were popping up everywhere. While some sites were skeptical, nobody could resist the concept on a home button free iPod touch. The story even managed to hit most commented for the day on Engadget. After seeing the initial response, I couldn't help but create another photo, which I proceeded to submit. Since many were more skeptical of this one, it didn't manage to attract as much attention as the first batch. Within hours of my new photo going up, apparently somebody else decided it would be fun to make some photos as well. Soon, these photos were showing up as well. I noticed that people were becoming increasingly skeptical though, so I decided that I had done enough work. I made some interesting conclusions though, which I would like to share.
1. Rumor sites will post anything: While I wasn't surprised that my pictures were posted, I was shocked at how willingly they were posted, without much questioning. I realize that it is the job of these sites to publish things like this, but at the same time, it seemed as if many were too willing. Make no mistake, I have a lot of respect for bloggers and what they do, but I feel as if more time should be put into verifying the authenticity of pictures.
2. Commenters can be brutal: I read every one of the nearly 700 comments on the Engadget article. While some were enthused about the idea of a capacitive iPod, others absolutely bashed it to no end. Some even went out of their way to confirm that the pictures were fake. I saw various color corrected versions of the photos floating around with annotations and arrows pointing to alleged “dishing” around the home button and funny pixels that made the photos fake. While these people had spotted the flaws, they obviously had way too much time on their hands. Others were delusional and saw things that really weren't there. Some said that the screen looked defective and that something looked funny where the bezel met the display. Some sites reported that the iPod looked like it had a low build quality. While it may have looked like this from the blurry photos, I can assure that there is nothing wrong with my iPod.
3. People will believe anything: I was astounded at the amount of people that had no doubt that the pictures were real, even after it was officially noted that the second photo I sent in was a fake, even pointing out GIMP in the metadata. I guess if you want to believe that something is real, you can force yourself to do so, even if all the evidence points away from it.
4. Opinions are easily swayed: When the first batch of photos were released, commenters were disgusted at the thought of a capacitive home button. Everyone was condemning it as impractical and stupid. When the new clearer photo was released, people's opinions started to change. Even though it was decidedly fake, many started to think differently about the concept, and I read many comments that stated how nice the iPod looked with a capacitive button, and that maybe it wasn't such a bad idea after all. Was the iPod that much better looking without all the grease?
5. It's way too easy to fake a photo: Even though I am a beginner to photo editing, I was able to successfully trick many people into believing the photos I threw together in a few hours late at night. Also, did anybody even notice the joined volume buttons? I can't say if I even saw one blog that mentioned that detail.
From what I learned, I would like to see two things change. First, it would be nice if more time was put into confirming the authenticity of all these leaks, rather than being the first to publish it. I mean, look at TUAW. They never said anything about it. At times, it gets sickening listening to all these rumors floating around. More time needs to be spent separating fact from fiction. Secondly, I would like to send a message to all the readers and commenters of tech blogs. Please don't believe everything you see. Just because it's published, that doesn't mean it's real. Remember, it's called a rumor for a reason. I hate when people say things like “That's it, I'm switching to Android,” or “Just when I thought that Apple couldn't get any stupider,” just because they see these rumors and believe them instantly. It can get rather annoying, and when I read things like this, I'm continually surprised that we are able to maintain a stable society with people like this out there.
I would like to thank you for participating in my experiment, and I hope that we can all learn from this.