Just a couple of days before the launch of the Google Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL, everyone got to see crystal clear images of the upcoming flagship. This leak was courtesy of Evan Blass; better known as evleaks in the tech world. Whenever there is a phone launch around the corner, people eagerly wait for Blass to give them a glimpse of the device. Fans and media houses alike, have an unprecedented trust in his leaks. I got a chance to talk with this 'legendary leaker' over direct messages (DMs) on Twitter.
We started with his first leak.
"Leaking started - as I suspect it starts at most publications - with a desire to move the needle with regards to traffic. In my case, I was the managing editor at PocketNow, a smartphone blog, and we needed creative ways to attract exclusive content. So, we enacted a reward program for tipsters in which points were awarded for exclusive material, and those points could then be exchanged for prizes like gift certificates and even cellphones. It was a modest success, but it definitely gave me a taste for the rush that comes with publishing a scoop," Blass said.
— Evan Blass (@evleaks) October 2, 2017
Blass started the @evleaks Twitter account in August 2012. And, at that time it was completely anonymous. One of his first interviews published in Times of India, were under his pseudonym.
Talking about his favourite leak, Blass revealed, "One leak I was quite proud of, involved an HTC phone that never ended up making it into production. Since I had images of this handset -- the name escapes me now -- from a few different angles, I thought it would be fun to commission a 3D artist to make a 360-degree render of it, and he did an amazing job. The finished product was a GIF wherein the phone spun in a continuous circle, turntable-style, exposing every possible nuance."
These days there many other leakers, including Benjamin Geskin who recently shot to fame through iPhone X leaks. I asked him what he felt about the competition.
"I don't think there's much benefit in discussing other people in this context. I guess you could say I just don't have much of an opinion either way -- I do my own thing, and try to concentrate on my own work," Blass opined.
During our interview with Geskin, we learnt that he received a few threats while leaking the iPhones. However, Blass declined to comment when I asked him if he had faced similar risks.
Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus (top to bottom) in black sky, orchid grey and arctic silver (left to right) pic.twitter.com/ISo7W10sYV
— Evan Blass (@evleaks) March 19, 2017
When people talk in the tech industry about leaks, ethics always comes up. In fact, Blass is sort of a torchbearer for ethics in the space of smartphone leaks.
"For me, the ethics of leaking primarily centres upon one's responsibility to the companies whose products are being leaked. Most companies will tell you that within a short amount of time prior to the launch, leaks have a most beneficial, buzz-creating effect. But leaking a product too far ahead of time can have serious consequences for them," he said.
"It can alter people's buying habits (putting off purchases that they normally would have made) and, perhaps, more importantly, it can tip their competitors off on features that might be beneficial to include in their own products," Blass added.
Most of the people in the industry hold him in high regards. “What comes out of Evleaks generally speaks for itself, I think,” said Phil Nickinson, former editor, Android Central, in the same ToI interview. “The vast majority of the time it checks out. Sometimes it doesn’t.” But we believe that Blass' accuracy has only improved over the years.
After he revealed his identity, his reputation has increased manifold. This is what Blass had to say about his new-found fame, "There are certainly benefits to achieving a degree of notoriety, and the most significant is probably just the feeling that one has made some sort of lasting impression -- that you've left your mark on the world, no matter how small or relatively insignificant it might be. And no, no one has ever recognised me in public, but I don't find that too surprising -- there's not much video of me out there, and only a handful of photos, so I'm in no way 'face famous.' People might be familiar with my work, but they're not very familiar with me, personally."
Doing what he does, we had to ask him about future of smartphone designs."I feel like the next big differentiator will be centred around creative display shapes and form factors. Manufacturers have been telling us for years that we're on the cusp of seeing truly foldable and rollable screens, for instance, and I think that's bound to happen anytime. Samsung even announced that such a product will be produced next year under the Note brand."
He ends with a piece of advice for budding leakers. "Talk to as many people as you can. Be social. Leaking is first and foremost a game of networking, so you need to cultivate sources and prove to those people that you're both discrete as well as responsible." Take him seriously kids, Blass means business and no one knows the smartphone leaks industry like he does.