iPhone 14 leak could trigger full wrath of Cupertino

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iPhone 14 concept skips the screen notch and camera hump.
Is this really what the 2022 iPhone will look like?
Image: Front Page Tech/RendersbyIan

Jon Prosser’s iPhone 14 leak is every Apple fan’s dream — and Tim Cook’s biggest nightmare.

The audacious revelation, dropped Wednesday morning via Prosser’s YouTube channel, Front Page Tech, showcased what next year’s iPhone 14 Pro Max might look like.

The exclusive iPhone 14 renders look so sweet that they might give pause to anyone contemplating buying an iPhone 13 later this month. That’s the nightmare part of this equation — and likely the part that makes Prosser nervous. Angry Apple executives might unleash all the company’s massive legal resources to stop him. And maybe even exact revenge.

Jon Prosser: Agent of chaos

And boy do those iPhone 14 renders look sweet. A thicker design practically kills the fugly camera bump. A “hole punch” camera eliminates the unwieldy notch. A titanium chassis with round volume buttons give the mockups an iPhone 4 feel. An Apple logo shimmers from underneath the device’s semi-glossy glass back.

It looks new … yet familiar … and like a big step up from the iPhone 12 design, which likely will remain virtually unchanged for iPhone 13.

During the video, which streamed live on YouTube this morning, Prosser said he deliberately timed his iPhone 14 leak to come right after Apple scheduled its next big streaming event.

“Listen, I know that this is a little crazy,” Prosser said in Wednesday’s video. “You’re about to see the iPhone 14 even before you officially get the iPhone 13. But we planned it this way. We planned to do this right after Apple dropped their event invites because, well, chaos. I like chaos.”

Is this the iPhone 14 lineup?

Some of the iPhone color options that could appear.
Some of the iPhone color options that could appear.
Image: Front Page Tech/RendersbyIan

We should get our first legitimate look at this year’s iPhone on Sept. 14 during Apple’s “California streaming“ event, announced Tuesday. We have a pretty good idea what’s coming down the pike, due to all the rumors we’ve previously heard. But until next Tuesday, we’ll likely all be buzzing about the iPhone 14 renders that stole Apple’s thunder.

The images, based on leaks from Prosser’s sources within Apple and produced by his colleague Ian Zelbo, show off what looks like a major redesign. Not just a couple of incremental changes — you know, the kind we’re likely to get next week.

Still, Prosser admits he knows nothing about the iPhone 14’s internals. Will it pack the rumored periscope camera? A very welcome bigger battery? Under-screen Touch ID? Who knows.

“Like most of our design leaks, we were only shown the physical design of the phone,” Prosser said. And, since the colors are not finalized, he and his crew simply produced renders of colors they like.

Plus, since iPhone 14 is more than a year away, who knows how accurate this week’s leak will look in hindsight.

“The sources with this one have helped with almost all of our design leaks this year, and their help with this project has been greatly, greatly appreciated,” Prosser said. “They were clear, though, this is a very early unit that they’re showing us. Some dimensions may change, colors may change, but they believe that the overall design will remain, all the way to mass production next year.”

Apple’s war on leaks

Prosser’s detractors will point out that the convenient caveat gives him plenty of wiggle room if his predictions miss the mark. However, the potential negative effect of the leak on iPhone 13 sales must be real.

In fact, it’s the fear of this type of bombshell that drives Apple’s war on leakers, as revealed in a letter the company’s lawyers recently sent to a Chinese citizen who supposedly published images of iPhone prototypes.

“It is obvious that when the unpublished information about the design and performance of Apple’s products is kept confidential, it has actual and potential commercial value,” said the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Motherboard earlier this year.

Leaks can suppress sales. But they also take the wind out of Apple’s sails on the “surprise and delight” front.

“Apple has made every effort to take strict measures to maintain confidentiality for any information about Apple’s products before their official release to ensure that every time Apple releases a new product, it can surprise the public,” the company’s letter said. “The secret of Apple’s latest technological innovation is an important part of the company DNA.”

Journalists like Prosser who publish trade secrets benefit from certain First Amendment protections. But that doesn’t preclude Apple from flexing its legal muscle and making life incredibly difficult for publishers.

However, things look quite different for the leakers themselves. Apple employees or supply chain workers who leak information face harsh punishments. Prosser’s team creates renders based on leaked photos and documentation in an effort to protect sources from Cupertino’s wrath. Those renders look stunning — and also help shield Prosser’s team from copyright claims.

A crazy time for such a big iPhone leak

Jon Prosser's latest leak could cause trouble.
Jon Prosser’s latest leak could cause trouble.
Image: Front Page Tech

With all that in mind, Wednesday’s leak must be sickening for Cupertino execs and the teams that work so hard on every new Apple device. This type of thing steals the spotlight from Apple just as the company fires up its hype machine for iPhone 13.

And, coming just as this year’s iPhone speeds toward reality, the iPhone 14 renders could potentially slow an entire year of smartphone sales.

After all, if the iPhone 13 looks and functions a lot like the iPhone 12 — as the most recent rumors indicate — why upgrade if you’re carrying last year’s model? And if you’re using something older than that, and definitely need to upgrade, why not save a few bucks by getting an iPhone 12 rather than a 13, while you wait for 2022’s really big update?

To some extent it doesn’t even matter if Prosser’s leak proves accurate. Soon after the leak, the term “iPhone 14” trended on Twitter, spurring tens of thousands of tweets.

A new study says only 10% of iPhone customers plan to upgrade this year. And for legions of Apple fans, simply seeing such vivid renders of a design potentially far cooler than this year’s model could cause even more hesitation.

Jon Prosser in Apple’s crosshairs?

Will this latest Prosser leak draw the ire of Apple’s executive suite? After releasing the video Wednesday, Prosser tweeted that he’s “never been this nervous about a story, ever.”

Apple has threatened legal action against outlets that publish rumors before, including Apple Insider and O’Grady’s Power Page. Remember Think Secret, a popular rumors site that was the Front Page Tech of its day? Apple sued the publication and had it cease publication in a still-secret settlement with its owner, Nick Ciarelli.

Apple CEO Tim Cook personally pledged to “double down” on secrecy. In 2018, the company sent a strongly worded memo to employees warning of harsh punishments for leakers.

And yet the leaks continue. And Prosser and his team are clearly swinging for the fence with this latest report. Beyond the Front Page Tech video, which showed off Zelbo’s renders, Prosser also released a cool augmented reality version of the iPhone 14 so you can look at a 3D version of the device in your own home. He even released free downloads of the wallpapers used in Zelbo’s renders.

Will all this be enough to stop potential iPhone 13 buyers from pulling the trigger? If I didn’t sign up for the iPhone Upgrade Program, which I’m in for professional reasons, I know I would be thinking, “This iPhone 12 Pro Max still works pretty well. Do I really need a $1,000 upgrade this year? Or should I wait until next year, when I get the really amazing new thing?”

Admittedly, we don’t know for sure what the iPhone 13 will look like just yet. And we can’t be 100% sure that iPhone 14 will look like Prosser’s renders.

But for Apple fans — and for Tim Cook — it’s going to be a very long week. And maybe a very long year.