When it comes to an upcoming smartphone, major mainstream publications trust the word of Evan Blass, who started his journey as a leaker under the pseudonym of @evleaks back in July 2012. Blass has over a decade of experience in covering the fast-growing technology world, and throughout his career that began as a tech journalist in 2005, he has closely observed the evolution of smartphones. But how has been his life as a professional tech leaker? More importantly, what are the major challenges a leaker like Evan Blass face in general?
"The biggest challenge a tech leaker face on a regular basis is balancing people's desire to have information on unreleased products as early as possible, with a responsibility not to leak things so early that it can prove damaging to the manufacturer," says Blass.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based Blass tells IBTimes SG that the high degree of competitiveness in reporting unannounced devices even makes the whole play harder to enact as the information is required to derive value out before it is rendered worthless. Having said that, he often purposely avoids revealing about something until it begins leaking through other channels and instead report his valid value additions.
"I might offer additional information, better imagery or simply confirm an earlier report, all of which feels better to me than being the very first person to reveal the existence of a particular device," the 39-year-old leaker asserted.
Blass, who is presently reporting mobile devices at VentureBeat, debuted in the tech writing space by joining AOL-owned Engadget. That position was achieved through the tech knowledge that he obtained through a two-year stint of selling consumer electronics in Beverly Hills.
Even though Blass' identity is at present open publicly, his position as a surreptitious informant was surfaced online initially with all anonymity.That was all sprung in the midst of the progressive deterioration of his multiple sclerosis, which was diagnosed in 2004.
"While I enjoy the recognition and accolades I get now that I do all my work under my own name, those first years of leaking on Twitter anonymously were probably my favourite," Blass recalls, adding that his pen name as @evleaks wasn't intentional to shield his identity.
"Many people in the industry knew that I was behind the account during that period. I just thought it added a compelling aspect to the project and enjoyed observing people's reaction to what they thought was the penultimate insider," Blass tells IBTimes SG.
However, in August 2014, Blass announced his retirement from being an anonymous leaking source. This was majorly due to the lack of financial stability in selling ads against exposed information on Twitter. "That retirement forced me to return to a more traditional writing career which had been on hold, and which ironically allowed me to return to leaking more lightly and casually," he notes.
Not a walkover at all
Retaining the trust of global media with accurate reports consistently on unannounced information is not a breeze for an as successful leaker as Evan Blass. Manufacturers often maintain a high level of secrecy while developing their new offerings. Likewise, companies generally don't have the strategy to leak their developments intentionally -- just for creating buzz.
"Companies sometimes seek to generate buzz by contributing their own material to leakers, but it happens much more rarely than what has seemingly become the conventional wisdom," Blass highlights.
The acclaimed leakers like Blass also often face a question about their authentic sources.
Favourite leak so far
Although the list of leaks by Blass is full iconic models, his most favourite among the hundreds of options is the one reporting the Galaxy S8. "It seems to have been a lot of people's favourite, too, as it garnered over 10,000 likes," he asserted.
Blass may have so far been revealed a large number of mobile devices starting from the ancient Windows Phone running Nokia Lumia 920 to the latest Galaxy Note 8 and the greatest iPhone X. But the Galaxy S8+ owner, who touts to be very much into a carrier-centric model of device acquisition and picks a new headset every other year, desires to have a "truly" modular phone that could be upgraded in pieces, similar to a DIY PC. "The original Project Ara was the closest we've yet seen to such an ecosystem, but sadly enough, it grew less ambitious before being permanently shelved," he comments.
On the overall growth of the smartphone market, Blass observes that it is a game of slow, steady one-upmanship where each manufacturer adds features or changes designs to leading the competition. He also believes that nascent spaces like augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) will prove transformative in their own ways.
Alongside the positive view on AI and AR developments, Blass considers it to be "great" to have different companies in the smartphone market with compelling models. He also sees a benefit in the mix of Apple, Google and Samsung. "The competition among these three has benefited consumers tremendously by consistently pushing the envelope in any number of different categories," he stated.