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Why we don’t care about Apple and Google announcements like we used to

JP Mangalindan
Chief Tech Correspondent
After weeks of leaks, Google tweeted out an official photo of its Google Pixel 4 smartphone. Source: Google/Twitter

After a slew of Google Pixel 4 leaks over the last several weeks, Google (GOOGGOOGL) did something unprecedented for a tech company. Rather than ignore the leaks, Google embraced them, tweeting the first official picture of the smartphone months before the device’s launch.

Leaks of high-profile technologies have become so commonplace now, they’re almost expected by techies who read tech blogs. Leaks of the upcoming iPhone 11, for instance, indicate Apple’s upcoming smartphone will have three cameras on the back, and reports regarding Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10, due out later this year, suggest the Android smartphone could get a massive overhaul in the looks department.

But while leaks give readers a frequently accurate peek at what the latest smartphone, tablet, or other cutting-edge device may look like, they also strip away the mystery and anticipation that once accompanied big product reveals like the Pixel and, of course, the iPhone.

Indeed, we mostly have Apple (AAPL) and now-deceased CEO Steve Jobs to blame for boosting consumers expectations around product and service announcements.

“Steve Jobs used to have that saying — that ‘one more thing’ — and there would always be some mind-blowing thing he would announce,” recalls Charlene Li, founder of the San Francisco-based Altimeter Group.

From 1999 to 2011, Jobs ended his keynotes with “one more thing,” delighting audiences with another, unexpected item: all-new iMacs in multiple colors (1999), the PowerBook G4 (2001), the iPod Shuffle (2005), FaceTime (2010) and the first MacBook Air (2010). In keeping those products secret until the big reveal, Apple generated an extraordinary level of excitement and anticipation. It’s a feat others have tried but failed at, except for Google and some gaming companies like Sony (SNE), Microsoft (MSFT) and Nintendo when they unveil highly awaited games or gaming consoles.

“The fast of the matter is, it’s harder and harder to keep secrets because of global supply chains and the retail market, so I think now manufacturers are starting to say, ‘maybe we can use it to our advantage and somehow talk about, in a more transparent way, what is coming down,” Li says.

By embracing the leaks like Google did, the company offers an official teaser of what’s coming soon. The company might also actually save itself some embarrassment: if consumers don’t like something they see, the company still has time to improve the device before the announcement, yielding a better-received product by the masses. Certainly, that’s a win-win for everyone.

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