Fact-Checking Digitimes, the Taiwanese Apple Rumor Source That Keeps Crying ‘Wolf!’

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Harry McCracken /

The Digitimes story:Apple reportedly planning a smaller-size iPad for 1Q11, says Digitimes Research,” 4/8/2010

The rumor: Apple plans to launch an iPad with a 5-to-7″ screen, selling for under $400, as soon as the first quarter of 2011. It’ll be a more reading-centric device than the current iPad.

The source: a report by analyst Mingchi Kuo of Digitimes’ own research arm, based on information from “upstream component sources”

The upshot: More than two years later, Digitimes is still saying that the dinky iPad is coming soon.

The Digitimes story:Apple said to use OLED in second-generation iPad,” 4/19/2010

The rumor: Apple’s second-generation iPad will sport an OLED screen instead of an LCD.

The evidence: reports from “sources in the component industry”

The upshot: As Digitimes’ own analyst Mingchi Kuo points out, the rumor seems far-fetched given the cost of OLEDs. The second-gen iPad and its successor both use LCDs.

The Digitimes story:Apple readies 11.6-inch MacBook Air and new iPod touch,” 7/15/2010

The rumor(s): Apple is planning to release an especially thin, light MacBook Air with an 11.6″ display in the second half of 2010, as well as a new iPod Touch with a 3-megapixel camera (capable of shooting both still images and video) and an A4 processor, which will show up in August or September.

The source: Digitimes Research’s Mingchi Kuo

The upshot: Apple does release an 11.6″ Air in October. In September, it introduces a new iPod Touch with an A4 CPU and a rear camera that does still images and video, but its resolution is a skimpy .6 megapixels, not 4 megapixels.

The Digitimes story: Apple prepares three versions of iPad 2 for 2011, says sources,” 12/28/2010

The rumor: In 2011, Apple will release three iPad 2 variants — Wi-Fi only, plus UTMS (as on AT&T) and CDMA (Verizon) versions.

The source: “industry sources”

The upshot: It does.

The Digitimes story:Apple to up iPad 2 resolution to 2048 by 1536,” 1/20/2011

The rumor: Apple’s second-generation tablet, which is about to go into production, will quadruple the pixels by boosting resolution to 2048 by 1536 (also known as 1536 by 2048).

The source: “sources from upstream component makers”

The upshot: Digitimes is just off by a year –it’s the 2012 iPad that introduced a Retina display.

The Digitimes story: Apple to expand iPhone screen size to 4-inches,” 2/15/2011

The rumor: Apple plans to increase the screen size of the fifth-generation iPhone from 3.5″ to 4″.

The source: “upstream component suppliers”

The upshot: The fifth-generation iPhone — better known as the iPhone 4s — has a 3.5″ screen.

The Digitimes story:iPhone 5 to have smaller than 4-inch panel, say sources,” 8/29/2011

The rumor: The scuttlebutt that Digitimes reported in February that Apple’s iPhone 5 would have a 4″-plus display is wrong; it’ll have a screen that’s 3.5″-to-3.7″, a metal back and a thinner bezel that makes the screen look bigger.

The source: “sources from upstream panel suppliers”

The upshot: Well, if by “iPhone 5″ Digitimes means the phone that is released in October as the iPhone 4s, the part about the display possibly being 3.5” is correct. But the phone doesn’t have a metal back or a thinner bezel; instead, it retains the iPhone 4 design.

The Digitimes story: Components for new 15-inch ultra-thin MacBook to start shipping in November,” 11/15/2011

The rumor: Apple will ship a new, thin laptop with a 15″ screen — which could be either a bigger MacBook Air or a svelter MacBook Pro — in either March or the second quarter of 2012 (the article seems to make both predictions).

The source: “sources from the upstream supply chain”

The upshot: March comes and goes without Apple announcing a new 15″ portable. But the second quarter of 2012 won’t end until June 30, so there’s still plenty of time for Digitimes to turn out to be correct.

The Digitimes story:Apple to launch 7.85-inch iPad in 2012, say sources,” 12/16/2011

The rumor: Apple is probably going to release an iPad with a 7.85″ screen before the fourth quarter of 2012.

The source: “sources in the supply chain”

The upshot: It hasn’t yet — but if it does any time before October, you heard it from Digitimes first.

The Digitimes story:Apple suppliers to start preparing materials for iTV in 1Q12, say sources,” 12/27/2011

The rumor: In the second or third quarter of 2012, Apple will release 32″ and 37″ TV sets.

The source: “industry sources”

The upshot: It could take up to four and a half months before we know if this one is fact or fantasy.

The Digitimes story:Apple to unveil two versions of next-generation iPad in January, sources claim,” 12/29/2011

The rumor: At January’s iWorld conference, Apple will announce two new iPads, both with 9.7″ 1536-by-2048 screens. One will be a midrange model with a 5-megapixel camera; the other will be a high-end version with an 8-megapixel camera.

The source: “sources at [Apple’s] supply chain partners”

The upshot: Predicting that Apple is going to announce anything at iWorld — a conference which the company famously jilted back when it was called Macworld Expo — is a truly perverse gambit. It doesn’t, of course. And when it does hold its own iPad event in March, it unveils only one model, with a 5-megapixel camera.

The Digitimes story:Apple to ship ‘iPad 3’ in March, ‘iPad 4’ in October, say Taiwan component makers,” 1/6/2012

The rumor: In March, Apple will release the ” iPad 3,” which will have a 1536-by-2048 screen and longer battery life; in October, it’ll unveil the iPad 4, which will keep the 9.7″ screen but add “much improved” hardware and apps.

The source: “industry sources in Taiwan”

The upshot: The part about the “iPad 3” is right; anyone want to make any predictions about Digitimes’ iPad-4-in-October prediction?


By my count, 16 of these 25 stories turned out to be mostly or completely off-base. Five are largely or entirely correct. And four involve predictions that might yet come true. I wouldn’t obsess over the percentages — my sampling may or may not be representative of Digitimes’ Apple articles as a whole. But you get the idea.

What else did I learn, judging from the stories I reviewed?

Mundane or logical-sounding Digitimes rumors usually amount to more than eyebrow-raising ones. If it says that Apple’s going to use LED backlighting in MacBooks or add video playback to iPods — well, there’s a decent chance that Apple will. But if it reports that the company will ditch LCDs for OLEDs or equip Macs with touch-screens, don’t assume that its sources know what they’re talking about.

Rumors from parts suppliers are imprecise, even when there’s something there. When Digitimes first wrote about iPhones with gyroscopes and iPads with Retina displays, the main thing it got wrong was the timing — they showed up a year after it expected them to arrive.

Digitimes rarely does anything other than to simply pass along gossip it’s heard. It almost always relays rumors without any analysis or context that might help readers gauge them. At least I only found one instance — when it reported on an alleged OLED iPad — when it expressed any skepticism.

Speaking of skepticism, even the reporters and bloggers who run disclaimers about Digitimes’ track record when they regurgitate its stories are treating it too gingerly. If they simply ignored every rumor that originated at the site until someone else had independently verified it, they’d raise the collective quality of journalism about unreleased Apple products. And if they refuse to be cynical about Digitimes scoops, the people who read their work should be.

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