Shocking, just absolutely shocking: the wild rumor claiming that Apple was developing new “EarPods” headphones that included integrated heart rate and blood pressure sensors, which had everyone buzzing, turns out to be fake. According to an anonymous Tumblr from the Secret post’s creator (he/she verified this within Secret, linking to Tumblr using the original poster’s Secret account), they had only posted the rumor as a joke, and never meant it to take off the way it did.
The leaker also apologizes for being “an accidental troll” and promises to “think twice from now on about what I say online.”
Although TechCrunch didn’t cover this particular rumor, a number of news outlets did, the leaker points out – including everything “from the Daily Mail in the UK to the evening news in the US,” they say. This quick spread indicates one of the problems with the 24/7, fast-paced news cycle – that sometimes unverified stories get picked up and passed around the web, even when no one has done much (or any) fact-checking of the rumor’s claims.
But in this particular case, the rumor was almost believable. (And who knows, maybe the leaker was a little bit prescient after all!)
A follow-up post from MacRumors, for example, discovered that the seemingly wild rumor actually had some roots in Apple’s research, including in its older patent applications. And Apple had also hired a wearable computing expert, MIT researcher Eric Winokur, who had worked on an “ear-worn wearable vital signs monitor,” MacRumors also claimed (citing an unnamed source.)
Combined with the fact that Secret has now established itself as an app where sometimes Valley gossip turns out to be true, the EarPods leak felt to some like it might – just maybe – be true.
Says the “leaker” -
I made it up. I wrote it 5 minutes after I woke up on the 1st of may. I was blurry eyed, I had a headache, I was using the toilet and worrying about my blood pressure.
I’d been messing around with secret as an outlet for comedy. The anonymous nature makes it a fun place to post things you can’t on twitter. I’ve been posting a few jokes there for a week or two. Because of the way Secret works, your posts only go to your friends and so I’ve been posting stuff there to try and give my friends a laugh. I like jokes and funny ideas and so Twitter and Secret are great for this kind of stuff. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it art but it’s a place I can test my creativity in a way I like to.
I was sitting there doing my business thinking what today’s joke would be. I take medication for ASD related stuff that can sometimes raise my blood pressure, so I was wishing I had an iPhone accessory that would measure it.
I looked around on Amazon and eBay and couldn’t find a good one at a price that it was worth to me. I was then thinking I wish Apple had a way to build one in to the phone. I started thinking how that would be possible. You can get the pulse from the camera with an app, but blood pressure is another thing. I thought jokingly you could wrap the headphones around your arm and measure it that way. From that, I thought a fake iPhone rumor about it would be a funny idea.
The idea of Apple including a free heart pressure monitor, something that would cost >$100-$200, seemed ridiculous to me. I added the iBeacon thing to stretch it further and the audio jack port moving idea as some contrived logic to make it sound believable. Like the strait man of the comedy sketch. When small numbers of people in my “circle” started commenting (I don’t know who they are) I played along with vague descriptions of how I would know about this.
And just in case you think Apple had gotten to the leaker and asked them to shoot down these claims, the leaker says that’s not the case. He/she has never worked for Apple and has never been in contact with them, they write.
What’s maybe more interesting that the fact that some wild rumor posted on an anonymous app turned out to be fake, is how close to reality it could be. Apple and its competitors might also want to take note of how much people wanted to believe in this, wanting it to be true – something that could imply consumer interest in such a device, if it ever were to exist.
Maybe there’s a startup idea in there?