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A huge leak about Apple’s ‘iPhone X’ comes days before its big debut

See the evolution of the iPhone, from the original released in 2007 to the latest iPhone today. (Video: Jhaan Elker/The Washington Post)

A huge leak that appears to be from within Apple has revealed information about devices and features that the company plans to announce at a major event Tuesday, including details about a high-end version of the iPhone that will be called the “iPhone X.”

Over the weekend, two Apple-focused blogs, 9 to 5 Mac and MacRumors, published information pulled from what appears to be the final build of Apple's iOS 11 operating system. The software indicates that Apple will release three phones Tuesday: the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X.

That fits with what many had expected, but not exactly: Most Apple observers had not expected Apple to skip over the “iPhone 7s” name directly to iPhone 8. The leaks also gave details about the Apple Watch, the AirPod ear buds and a new type of emoji.

Apple did not respond to requests for comment on the leaks.

The iPhone is 10. Where does Apple go from here?

The disclosures come just ahead of a major launch at Apple's new corporate campus, Apple Park, which will celebrate the iPhone's 10th anniversary and stands to be a crucial opportunity for the company to erase the perception that it can no longer innovate.

A decade after former chief executive Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone, Apple is set to introduce a completely redesigned iPhone along with two other new phones. (Video: Reuters)

The information that was released, according to developers, appears to come from Apple's servers through long, complicated Web addresses that would be very difficult to find without inside knowledge of where they are. Several Apple developers online agree that the software appears genuine and confirms several rumored features for the high-end phone, including wireless charging, a new type of screen, more camera options for portrait shots and an advanced facial-recognition system.

The leaks also showed a new version of the Apple Watch with some 4G connectivity — meaning the watches won't have to be tethered completely to a phone. Other features exposed by the leak include “animoji” — animated emoji that mimic a user's facial features — and new wireless AirPods that sport an external display to show their battery level.

Surprise is a key element to a successful Apple event, and this leak could take some wind out of its sails as it looks to wow consumers with the big debut Tuesday. That, some longtime Apple watchers suggest, may have been the leaker's intention.

“Someone within Apple leaked the list of URLs to 9to5Mac and MacRumors. I’m nearly certain this wasn’t a mistake, but rather a deliberate malicious act by a rogue Apple employee,” John Gruber said on his blog, Daring Fireball.

The BBC said it had confirmed, through unnamed individuals, that the links for the build had been leaked to the media rather than found by chance.

Consumers should still take all leaks with a grain of salt, said Gartner analyst Brian Blau. Even with large leaks like this, he said, we can't assume that we know everything Apple's going to release. "They don’t have enough info to show the full picture of what's going on," he said in an email. Apple may still have surprises to share, he said, and a further test will come when these devices get into people's hands.

Yet while these revelations may dampen the suspense for Apple's event, it's quite unlikely that they will affect Apple's sales. The company's shares closed up nearly two percent Monday, even after the leaks.

For “Apple there is such insatiable demand for even the smallest details and such an obsessive fan-following of its products that even a very detailed leak will do little to dampen the enthusiasm of bloggers and others to report its news,” analyst Ben Wood from CCS Insight told the BBC.

Leaks have plagued Apple in the past, most notably in 2010, when an engineer left a prototype iPhone 4 in a bar ahead of release. Plugging such leaks has been a stated focus of Apple chief executive Tim Cook. In fact, the last major leak from Apple was an audio recording of a company meeting earlier this year focused on stopping leakers.

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