Assessing iPhone rumors is a tough game. You ignore the crazy stuff, reflect on the reasonable stories, and watch as some gossip instantly (mysteriously) turns into consensus.
That's what happened Wednesday morning. At 3:10 am, All Things D reported that Apple's next big event will land on October 4. Within a few hours, popular opinion agreed, "yup, the iPhone 5 will arrive that Tuesday!"
Why the sudden unanimity? Well, this particular iPhone rumor has several things going for it.
First, consider the source. All Things D is a branch of The Wall Street Journal. That connection gives the site credibility. The blog traffics in a healthy dose of both officially verified articles and anonymously sourced gossip. But we often forgive All Things D for unnamed attribution. While other websites may use anonymity to hide dubious sources (or, worse, just make things up), WSJ has earned itself some slack. Anonymity is kinda how business works these days, especially in tech reporting – especially when Apple is involved.
Second, the rumor makes sense. Before the report this morning, the popular narrative surrounding the iPhone 5 went something like this: Apple releases new editions of its hardware every year. But it pushed back its normal June/July iPhone date this year for at least three reasons. Late-comer Verizon is still selling iPhone 4s; Apple wanted to give the long-delayed white iPhone plenty of breathing room; and while Android is the best selling phone OS, the iPhone is the most popular phone in the world, which makes a new global launch very tricky. Apple needed extra time to produce the tens of millions of iPhone 5s that will be necessary to keep up with global demand – a feat few factories can offer, let alone quality factories that are willing to keep their mouths shut to the press. So, early October sounds about right.
The previous round of public consensus agreed that the iPhone 5 would be introduced in September and hit stores in October. With this month evaporating quickly, it seems that rumor doesn't make sense anymore.
But think about that for a moment: The previous rumors were wrong, so we all adopt new ones. We have no guarantee that these new reports will be any better. In fact, the same All Things D reporter that brought us today's story wrote earlier this summer that "iPhone is reportedly on track for a September launch." Oops.
Maybe Apple changed its mind. But today further highlights how iPhone rumors such as this require context and skeptical reading. The iPhone 5 very well could appear on October 4. But until it does, readers beware.
For more on how technology intersects daily life, follow Chris on Twitter @venturenaut.