Spoiler alert: For some Apple fans, rumors ruin product launches

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For some people, rumors and leaks about Apple’s upcoming products ruin the inevitable reveal. Photo: Neerav Bhatt/Flickr CC

Many people routinely avoid spoilers for TV shows and movies, but some also steer clear of clues about Apple’s upcoming product announcements.

Next Tuesday, Apple is expected to reveal two new iPhones and an iWatch. While the long-rumored wearable remains shrouded in mystery, many details of the next-gen iPhones are all but confirmed, thanks to an avalanche of rumor reports and parts leaks. So comprehensive are the leaks, some have even managed to build a working iPhone 6 from parts — and the device is still weeks away from shipping to customers.

But some Apple fans remain blissfully ignorant of the details.

“I am like a big kid on Christmas with Apple announcements and as a kid never wanted to spoil the surprise,” said Marie Howarth, of Manchester, England.

The 31-year-old avoids Twitter and tech news sites, but it’s not easy. Anticipation for Apple’s September 9 event is through the roof. Even the biggest media organizations are running preview stories, and she never knows when Apple will pop up in conversation and ruin Cupertino’s big reveal.

“That’s my reasons for not wanting to hear the rumors — in case they’re right and I’ve got no surprises on announcement day,” she said.

Spoilers have become pervasive in modern media. The New York Times recently estimated that the term “spoiler alert” appeared in almost 40 percent of its articles (although it’s clearly overused). The term was just added to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary in May.

There are even special spoiler apps that block all mentions of particular television shows and sports on websites and social media. Spoiler Shield is an app and Chrome extension that blocks mention of 50 popular TV shows and major sports franchises, while Bloko focuses on sports.

Shamil Labazanov, a 19-year-old student from Wiesbaden, Germany, actively avoids any Apple news. To ensure media blackout, he’s set up several mute filters in Tweetbot to block any mention of Apple products.

“I don’t see any tweets about iPhone 6, iWatch or other Apple products,” he said. “It really helps.”

He also blocks the words “rumor,” “rumors,” “leaks” and “leaked.”

“I want to enjoy the keynote on the 9th of September. I want to feel that ‘wow’ effect again!”

“I want to enjoy the keynote on the 9th of September,” he said. “I want to feel that ‘wow’ effect again! I’m really excited!”

Chris Duffy, a student from Glasgow, Scotland, is more conflicted. He wants some news about Apple, but not too much. He skips large sections of news stories that detail rumored products. “It can be difficult to avoid the rumors on the Internet as the event comes closer and more stories about them come out or there are more tweets posted about them,” he said. “I avoid the rumors because I miss the excitement of the event that there used to be when the security that Apple had was a little tighter.”

Keynotes that don’t feature any surprises are “a little bit boring,” he said.

Anna Peak, 33, a professor at Temple University in Pennsylvania, avoids rumors to maintain the surprise, but also for ethical reasons.

“I prefer the excitement of a whole revelation at once rather than dribs and drabs here and there,” said Peak, who watched the livestream of Apple’s last keynote and followed liveblogs. “I’m a little concerned about people who serve as sources for leaks getting fired. I don’t think they should be fired for leaking info, specs, pics, etc., but since they might be I would hesitate myself to ask someone to put themselves in that position.”

She also avoids spoilers for TV shows. “I will barely even speak now to an acquaintance who let drop a big Game of Thrones spoiler,” Peak said. “Very uncool to my mind; inconsiderate braggadocio.”

Peak and the others contacted for this story all hope to watch the upcoming Apple event, which will be livestreamed at 10 a.m. Pacific next Tuesday.

But when it comes to he spoiler avoiders are in the minority, and may actually be missing out.

In 2011, researchers at the University of California at San Diego found that subjects preferred spoiled to unspoiled stories. In a 2011 study entitled “Story Spoilers Don’t Spoil Stories” (PDF), the researchers concluded that giving away surprises “makes readers like stories better.”

Suspense, the researchers concluded, is overrated.

About the author

Leander KahneyLeander Kahney is the editor and publisher of Cult of Mac. He is the NYT bestselling author of Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products; Inside Steve’s Brain; Cult of Mac; and Cult of iPod. Leander has written for Wired, MacWeek, Scientific American, and The Guardian in London. Follow Leander on Twitter @lkahney and Facebook.

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