28
Jun
evleaks
Last Updated: October 1st, 2013

The Backstory

Unless you've been carefully monitoring your tech blog bylines for years (or are a devout and longtime Engadget / Pocketnow reader), you've probably never heard of a man named Evan Blass. This has actually been a good thing for Evan, who for over a year (with a long break during 2012) has operated the now quite-well-known @evleaks Twitter account, leaking various phones, tablets, and product names to an eager public.

As you may have guessed by the title, and that first paragraph, Evan has decided to remove the question of identity from that account, and he's decided to make that fact official on Android Police - though don't expect to see him reveal his sources or techniques anytime soon.

If you aren't familiar with @evleaks, well, just check out Android Police when you do a query for that term: there are 48 articles mentioning the infamous leaker, most of them showcasing his handiwork. Search the web at large and you'll find thousands, if not tens of thousands, of blog entries directly referencing his leaks. Google "evleaks" and you'll end up with over 900,000 results.

nexusae0_HTC_M7_render1Some recent notables? He leaked images of what is almost definitely the AT&T version of the Moto X. He revealed video stills of what is likely LG's upcoming Optimus G2. He provided a stunning level of detail on HTC's alleged upcoming phablet. He posted a high-quality render of the HTC One well before any more authentic images of the device were discovered - that was one that even we ended up fooled on.

While his Twitter follower count of 31,500 (approximately, at the time of this writing) doesn't exactly scream "celebrity," it's not the quantity, but the quality of those followers - it really is the "who's who" of tech journalism. Evan has amassed ranks that include the likes of Kara Swisher of the Wall Street Journal, Lance Ulanoff (Editor in Chief, Mashable), Dan Farber (Editor in Chief, CNET), Ina Fried (All Things Digital), Peter Rojas (Co-founder: Gizmodo, Engadget, Joystiq), and dozens of notable writers, editors, and tech personalities. Of course, the companies whose products he leaks also have an interest in the account: LG, ASUS, NVIDIA, and likely most other mobile tech giants keep a quiet eye on what comes out of his feed. After all, almost every success for @evleaks is a failure for someone. Evan has also managed to gain over 10,000 followers on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo, where his full translated handle is, and I'm not kidding, "Great God evleaks" - a name he claims was given to him by the Chinese tech press.

Evan's first big job in tech was with Engadget, where he worked from 2005-2008, eventually achieving the rank of Senior Editor. Believe it or not, Evan at one point was responsible for training Joshua Topolsky and Nilay Patel, Editor in Chief and Managing Editor of The Verge, respectively. He knew Jonathan Geller before he was The Boy Genius - and it's a little hard to ignore the notion that perhaps Geller inspired Blass, in part, with his anonymous leaking. He then went on to help build the failed website Obsessable.com, whose publication platform actually now powers TMZ. Evan then worked at Pocketnow.com as Managing Editor from 2010-2012, where he became infamous (to both readers and HTC) for his various and consistently high-quality leaks of HTC phones. After leaving PN, he started the @evleaks Twitter account.

evleaksThe account itself has had an interesting history. It started in early 2012, but went silent for months and was then deleted. The leaks returned in August last year, and they've been flowing ever since. Evleaks has appeared on sponsored partner posts at various blogs, lending them an exclusive chance to publish juicy material while also promoting the @evleaks handle. More recently, sponsored tweets have appeared on the account. Why Twitter? Well, Evan has told me it's easy, and a good way to grab attention. Apparently so: evleaks.com is currently being squatted (for $4500, apparently), as is facebook.com/evleaks.

So, how has Evan kept himself secret for over a year? Well, it's not exactly a complete secret. In fact, several prominent tech blogs (us included) have known exactly who Evan is and that he is behind @evleaks, and have complied with his wishes to keep his identity undisclosed - until now.

I've known the man behind evleaks since early this year, and we've had many conversations. About leaks, journalism, and mobile technology generally. I've come to know Evan as what I would call a friend, and while he may not always be the most gentle soul behind closed doors - you will surely find individuals ready and willing to bash him now that this information is public - Evan is an incredibly smart guy, and the mobile tech world's current most prominent leaker. (You can't ignore success.) So, below is my interview with Evan, discussing his history, his leaks, and a few things he's not too keen on revealing just yet.

The Interview

AP: Evan, with your substantial history in tech blogging and long list of accurate leaks, one has to wonder: why did you go solo? You obviously bring some valuable assets to the table.

EB: I have multiple sclerosis, and can't commit to full-time work anymore. I tried to go back to 9 to 5 at, uh, 9-to-5 Google, but it quickly became clear that my disease is too unpredictable after fifteen-plus years.

AP: What was the deal with Pocketnow - why did that relationship end?

EB: Brandon (the owner and editor-in-chief) wanted to move the site in a different direction -- scoop traffic is temporal -- and he was kind enough to find a quote-unquote desk job for me. But it was not a good fit.

AP: How exactly do you stumble upon these leaks - industry sources? More covert or nefarious means? How much do your sources vary, and do you have anyone helping you out?

EB: I make it a wholesale policy not to discuss sources with anyone, ever. It has earned me a good reputation, I think.

A6tjA5dCMAEUmK2 (1)AP: Why have you decided to finally "come out" after almost a year of success with the @evleaks Twitter account?

EB: Eventually someone was going to out me, and I wanted to take that off the table as much as I could. However, my "coming out" had all the impact of...well, nothing.

AP: What was the motivation to leak? Was it just part of the job, or did you have a specific interest in outing unreleased products?

EB: Not sure that it was ever a conscious decision. Eventually it became part of the job, but at first -- especially when you're starting out as a writer -- you're just happy to get any exclusive that you can, whenever you can. Regular scoops, like those published by people such as Tom Warren and Mark Gurman, are the result of a lot of a time and patience.

AP: Legal issues aside, do you feel as though you're wronging these companies by outing their unreleased products?

EB: In some respects I do, sure. I'm well aware that products go through a very carefully planned journey from conception to release, and what I do interferes with that plan. I try to be as responsible as possible about it, but at the end of the day, I may have made someone's launch a little less magical, and that sucks. I guess I take some solace in the fact that the same people affected by a leak one day are eagerly checking out a leak of their competitors' product the next day. There's great appeal in having insider information.

AP: You seem to have a particularly strong pulse on Nokia and HTC products. Why is that?

EB: Controlled leaks, obviously. Those two companies' CEOs (I get to call them Steve and Pete) regularly invite me over for drinks, entertainment, and plenty of hot, pre-launch phone action. [SARCASM]

AP: There's been a lot of talk about the times you've been wrong, and there's no question that's happened in the past. What's the one "leak" you wish you could take back?

EB: That's pretty clear. I had gotten imagery that was almost surely just placeholder artwork of the Samsung Galaxy S4 -- sourced from retailer Expansys, those peaches -- but I thought that even those mockups might speak to features or design aspects of the real handset. I tweeted out the pics at the height of Galaxy fever, captioned with nothing but trailing ellipses (...), and mistakenly assumed that the message would be clear. Once I saw them being reported as @evleaks-endorsed renders, I pulled down the tweets, but of course that just gave the situation even more of an appearance of impropriety.

AP: What do you think was your best "leak," and why?

EB: Strictly speaking, my best leak was probably a near-complete rundown of the new specs and features that consumers could expect from the upcoming Windows Phone 8, up until that point only known by its codename, Apollo. The story was based on a video of WP product manager and Microsoft VP Joe Belfiore, and intended for partners at Nokia. But my favorite exclusive wasn't strictly a leak at all: it was the tracking down and publication of a photo taken with the then-unreleased iPhone 4S (at the time referred to as the iPhone 5). The picture had a great backstory, as it was a plate of sushi captured by an Apple engineer eating in the cafeteria at 1 Infinite Loop (according to the geotagged EXIF data)

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AP: Has it become harder to leak? Are these companies really catching on, getting stricter about where their information ends up?

EB: Of course. Companies are constantly learning and changing tactics. Some have even gone so far as to leak their own products in a clever bit of insurance against future leaks.

AP: What are you going to do going forward? Keep leaking? Will the @evleaks handle continue to be active?

EB: I've always thought of @evleaks as more of a pen name than a mask, so in my mind, nothing has really changed. I guess that remains to be seen, though.

AP: Can you think of a leak you thought was trivial at the time, but turned out to be massive once it was publicized?

EB: I didn't predict quite how positively people would react to an in-the-wild shot of what will very likely turn out to be the LG G2 (successor to the Optimus G). It's a sexy-looking handset, to be sure, but its nearly bezel-less frame and possible status as a Nexus reference design really seemed to excite people in a way that I haven't seen a leak do in awhile.

AP: What phone are you using? I already know the answer to this one, but I'm sure people are curious.

EB: This is just downright embarrassing. As you can probably surmise, no one really sends me review units anymore, so I'm still saddled with a self-purchased Samsung Galaxy Nexus whose multiple screen cracks break my heart a little bit more before each usage.

AP: Whose new products (even the ones we may not yet know about) have you the most excited this year - anything you can tease?

EB: Gonna have to go with the G2 -- again -- along with HTC's probable phablet, some big hardware from Nokia (EOS and phablet(s)), and hopefully even something really premium from BlackBerry. Sony Mobile is putting out exciting handsets these days too, as are a ton of formerly budget OEMs like Huawei, ZTE, and OPPO. Seems like everyone is bringing their A-game nowadays, which is great for phone enthusiasts.

AP: Coke or Pepsi?

EB: Coke, every time. I'd climb over the carcasses of 1000 jagged Pepsi cans, for a Coca Cola.

Your Turn

Now, we know this interview doesn't answer every question you want asked, so we're letting you in on a little democratic journalism: below in the comments, ask a question of evleaks. We'll pick the best questions, and we'll publish the ones Evan is willing to answer in a separate post.

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • MasterMuffin

    Would you give us some information about Nokia EOS plz, it's the biggest phone to get launched this year if you ask me even though the phone won't sell as good as S4 or iPhone. While you're at it, X phone or Nexus 5 leaks would be nice too ;)

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      I highly doubt he would answer any questions asking about future products, especially if he plans to leak them separately.

      • TY

        It would be better for AP to note in the article that people should refrain from asking for more leaks...

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          Well, I don't know what he would answer, so those were just my own thoughts.

      • MasterMuffin

        I know, but one can always try. That's why I have that ";)" at the end :D

  • Munchy

    hey evan i am just wondering how one day i can become as good as you (in tech, brains etc.)

  • Lasse

    That was really interesting to read. :D

    • sri_tech

      I still remember about the leak he mentioned. WP8 features list. That is how I started reading pocket now.com.

      Later they stopped leaking anything (may be bevause evan left).

      Pocketnow and android police are two best sites with in depth analysis and reviews of products. That michael fisher guy is fantastic.

  • oktnxbai

    Any hardware leaks (read: render) from any rumored smart watch (Samung, Apple, etc? How about the recent WSJ rumor about Google's massive Android expansion to console gaming?

  • Stiggy

    Thanks Evan for doing this interview with AP. Makes me feel better knowing one of the best leak sources associates themselves with AP. Now to the question, since you get a look at the near future of phones more than just about anyone else, what do you think will be the next game changing feature or ability? You mentioned small bezels on LG products as something you look forward to, what else is going to be the next big thing in mobile?

  • Stiggy

    Also Evan, what the hell you say you get invited to intentional leaks with Nokia and HTC, get a damn One or 920 already.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      Whoosh.

      • Stiggy

        Ah sonofabitch. I'm at work I read it quickly the first time through.

  • http://komorkomania.pl/author/michal-brzezinski Michal Brzezinski

    Have you ever had some problems from companies which products you leaked? Threats, blackmailing, etc?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Unfortunately, I have reason to believe there won't be any answer to this one. Sorry.

      • fixxmyhead

        I'll take that as a yes

    • Stephan Sch

      "As you can probably surmise, no one really sends me review units anymore[..]"

  • Waleed Al Suwaimel

    What are some of the "changing tactics" companies do now to avoid leaks? Thank you.

  • HellG

    Can you please define controlled leaks ? Is that means all bonus and htc phones you so called leaked was actually handled to you by these companies ?

    • http://komorkomania.pl/author/michal-brzezinski Michal Brzezinski

      Here you have our coming phone but remember: take some really crappy photo!

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      It was a joke.

      • EH101

        In text, it was a very poor joke. Perhaps an italicized "obviously" would have conveyed it better.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

          It's so obviously a joke that it doesn't need "obvious." If you think Evan Blass is meeting with Stephen Elop and Peter Chou on the downlow, I'm not sure what to say to you.

          • EH101

            Obviously he's not meeting any CEOs, but you and I both know controlled leaks happen. Saying what he said without conveying tone is a great way for idiots to start bashing him for nothing. It takes very little to get the troll army mobilized, you know.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            Well, those were his answers, we didn't want to modify them or add /s or something. I'm not sure italicizing would take care of the broken sarcasm detectors.

          • EH101

            Well, that makes sense. Posting someone's words verbatim is usually the best way to go about things. In my experience though, italics work very well to at least get a person's mind leaning in the proper (correct) direction, though they would have to connect the dots so to speak.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            Heh, Evan agreed to add the fat ugly tag @rdr0b11:disqus just threw in there.

          • EH101

            Oh, also, while I have your attention, it's been quite a while since you guys did the new AP logo contest. How is that coming along? I figured the design change would've happened by now and I'm sure others are wondering as well. Apologies if you posted an update regarding this and I missed it.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            All I can say is there's progress being made, but it's unfortunately taking a lot longer than I've been planning. Just met with our designer an hour, ago actually.

          • EH101

            Awesome, I'm glad to hear it's still moving even though it's going slowly. I look forward to seeing how it turns out. Thanks for your reply.

        • evilapa

          Does all Android users have asperger?

    • zymo

      "controlled leaks" are quite common these days. Companies allow bloggers to post some pics of an upcoming device. Often, like Michael Brzezinski already said, the taken pictures are quite blurry, so you can't reveal too much and the leak doesn't look intended by the company. This is modern marketing 2.0. People keep talking (generating momentum) about the device till official announcement. It's a win-win situation for both, the leaker gets a bunch of clicks (more people visiting the site/blog) and the company's product gets "advertised" for free.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

        As a blogger, I will tell you that the "controlled leak" phenomenon gets way more traction in the comments sections of various corners of the internet than it ever should. It is extremely rare for companies to really "leak" anything truly new to blogs, unless you're The Wall Street Journal or Bloomberg Tech or something - and even then, it's spoken word information only.

        It is much more common to provide access. A chance to look at things early (under embargo), to get hands-on time before everyone else, to prepare a review before other outlets, etc. Basically, giving journalists a chance to write the story before anyone else has a chance (or when very few people have a chance) and "scoop" competitors. This really never means getting to "leak" anything. It just means being first.

        Most companies hate leaks. Leaks reduce leverage over journalists, they give competing companies a chance to change strategies, and piss off CEOs who are obsessed with keeping everything a "surprise."

    • adambomb

      If I were to give an example of a controlled leak (and possibly done by Nokia themselves), I would say the Nokia EOS and the vizileaks account on Twitter. Each leak happened every day for about a week and a half until the competitors' product (in this case Samsung with the S4 Zoom) was announced.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        Definitely could see that being done by Nokia, agreed. But that wouldn't be a controlled leak, it'd be self-marketing. So not a controlled leak at all.

  • heat361

    Not really a secret to me, I already knew his name since last year November when he was leaking the nexus 4.

  • Mark

    Are you volunteering in any charitable organizations for Multiple Sclerosis? If so, do you recommend any?

  • Roberto Giunta

    And here I thought we'd get that leaked 4.3 teardown but that's even better!
    I got a few questions.

    1. It may be a strange question, but do you like what you do right now (leaking mainly smartphone-related information) or would you rather have preferred to keep your job at a tech site and leak that information for that site? If you'd have a site, would we see some features or reviews by you or would you keep focussing on leaks only? I'm pretty sure you could get some review units from "Steve" and "Pete" and a few others you may know ;)

    2. And a little bit of an indiscrete one but seeing how you don't have a website right now where you could potentially get some ad revenue from, how do you finance yourself? I mean, I see here and there a sponsored tweet but is that all or are some 'planned leaks' more profitable for you, too? Sorry if that's a little too private, but you don't have to answer it, I'm just curious here :)

    3. What kind of advice would you give an aspiring (tech) writer nowadays? Not necessary as a 'leaker', but overall. Start an own blog, present that bigger blogs/publications? Be bold? Any special advice?

    Thanks a lot for your work. I think for a tech enthusiast like me and a lot of others it's awesome to see what is around the next corner :) Keep leaking!

    P.S.: Get this man a damn phone! He needs something better than a Galaxy Nexus!

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      Are you volunteering to buy him an Xperia Z Ultra?

  • Menl

    hey evan please make a google plus page thanks.

  • heat361

    What's the best part of leaking unreleased products?

  • AdamLange

    ~o/~ ~o/~ ~o/~ <--- EvLeaks Cheerleaders Team

    • http://samsung-updates.com/ Krzysztof Bryk

      ~oo/~ ~oo/~ ~oo/~

      fixed =)

  • AdamLange

    Q: Coke Zero, Light or Normal ?

  • Mike

    How do you get those pictures taken with the Moto X? Is it you, or just someone you know with a test unit sending those. Also, what are your general thoughts on Motorola/Google?

  • Grman Rodriguez

    Do you think revealing your identity will make it more difficult to leak?

  • John Bailey

    Which manufacturer do you think has the best chance at releasing the new Nexus?

    ( I personally think that the leaked shots of the moto X best resembles the "look" of a nexus device)

  • http://www.ukmobilereview.com/ Nirave

    Are you behind Vizileaks, as an alternative Twitter leakster account for when you reveal yourself as evleaks?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      The answer to that question is no (not to put words in Evan's mouth, but I know he isn't), but I will definitely consider including it in the followup post regardless.

      • http://www.ukmobilereview.com/ Nirave

        Fantastic thanks, just thought I would ask the question :)

  • Guest

    what carrier is he on?

  • Spank

    How come you are not using a high-end phone like the HTC One? Considering it is your line of work I thought you may have multiple phones!

  • Spedez

    I hope Nokia gets you by the balls Mr evleaks. Enjoy your disease.

    • AdamLange

      Wishing someone to "enjoy disease" should get you one too.

    • @evleaks

      The only thing I enjoy about it is the enhanced pain tolerance I've developed. When Nokia does grab me, I may not even notice.

      • needa

        great response to a comment that was destined to make its way on this page. kudos.

    • http://AndroidAuthority.com/ Bogdan Petrovan

      Now you're just stupid.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Sorry, did you grow up aspiring to be a douchebag, or is that just how things turned out? I'd prefer if you never commented on our website again with that attitude.

    • Kevin

      I'm sure he'll take HIS disease over YOURS anyday. I can still like a guy with MS. Stupidity? Not so much.

  • GF

    It was a subtle way to let us all know we should really get excited about the LG Optimus G2, and perhaps a Nexus 5.

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  • Arjit Mehra

    One question...when you leak..why the bad quality pictures?

    • Sam Hollis

      Because he has a Galaxy Nexus.

      (Okay, the sensor isn't that bad, but it could be better.)

      In all seriousness, it's probably more of a "beggars can't be choosers" sort of thing.

      • needa

        i would imagine the pics are taken by someone else. then stripped of exif and sent to him. i dont really see him walking around in a nokia factory. this is why he has 'sources'. @arjit

  • Padmanabhan K

    why did you reveal yourself evan? why didnt you keep ur identity a secret? or is there something else that we dont know about??

    • Jonas_D

      "... Eventually someone was going to out me, and I wanted to take that off
      the table as much as I could. However, my "coming out" had all the
      impact of...well, nothing... "

      Maybe that's why.

  • Hill Chan

    Great God!

  • angel_spain

    [Q] Why did you choose AndroidPolice to reveal your identity?

  • http://josedmorales.net/ Joe Morales

    What I don't understand is why he hasn't leaked, you know, the actual video of the then unreleased Windows Phone 8. I mean, I could understand why didn't do it back then why not now? I would love to have that as part of my collection. Even if he decides to upload it in 240p!

  • Adam Goldberg

    favorite phone currently on the market (pick one from each carrier of the big 4)?

  • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

    When is that Q&A coming?

    • @evleaks

      Working on it right now!

      • http://samsung-updates.com/ Krzysztof Bryk

        pizza, pasta or ... ?

      • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

        Can't wait!

  • bunzy

    Man, take a huge loan, buy some shares, and leak...
    You only need to do it a few times, and you are retired :)

  • gdanko

    Do you get some sort of rush in leaking a product? Can't you find some other form of excitement in your life?