Rumors swirl wildly across the Internet before every Apple Watch event–and Monday’s “Spring Forward” event in San Francisco was no exception. Now that the event is over, it’s time to hold all the rumors of the previous few months up to the light. Whose predictions were correct? Whose “sources” let them down?
Fast Company partnered with Emergent, an online rumor tracker, to create a database of all the Apple Watch rumors we could find on the Internet in the run-up to the event (you can view the database here). The day before the event, we posted a rumor roundup outlining all the rumors we had found (see the roundup here). During the Apple event itself, we updated a rumor scorecard as rumors were proven and disproven by the events onstage (here’s the scorecard). Some claims were verified by Apple’s website.
Here’s how Emergent defined a rumor, for the purposes of this project: “A rumor was an unverified claim or prediction related to Apple Watch or the March 9 event. It had to be something verifiable, meaning it consisted of a number, feature, service or other kind of element that could be determined as true or false.”
In our database, 23 rumors were true, 28 rumors were false, and 37 rumors are still unverified.
Here are a few quick stats about some of the categories we watched:
20 rumors were about the price of the Apple Watch–and only 6 (30%) of those rumors were correct! 14 were false.
10 rumors were about Watch components–and all of those rumors are still unverified.
8 rumors were about Apple Watch sales numbers–and those, for obvious reasons, are all still unverifiable.
7 rumors were about the Watch’s battery life. 4 (57%) of those rumors were true. 3 are still unverified.
Now that we’ve tallied up our individual rumor scorecard, we can start scoring some of the people who reported the rumors.
A panoply of journalists and analysts chimed in on supposed Watch prices and sales. The top three, ranked by quantity of rumors:
1. Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac: 16 predictions
2. John Gruber at Daring Fireball: 8 predictions
3. Analyst Jim Suva from Citigroup: 5 predictions
Mark Gurman of 9to5Mac had the best accuracy rate of anyone who had more than one of their claims resolved by this week.
Of his 16 claims (12 of which related to the Apple Watch and its release), 7 (44%) were correct and only 2 (12.5%) were incorrect (and those 2 incorrect claims, about the Apple Watch shipping date, were debunked before the Spring Forward event).
6 (37.5%) of Gurman’s claims are still unverifiable, including a report that Apple Stores will now feature custom safes for storing the Watch, and that the Apple Watch can be worn in the shower.
Based on the data we have, Gurman was a pretty great source on the MacBook: 3/3 of his MacBook predictions (100%) were accurate. Notably, he did not make any predictions about Apple Watch pricing.
John Gruber at Daring Fireball, on the other hand, did make predictions on pricing (and his Apple Watch Edition price predictions mostly went higher as the weeks went by). He was actually right back in February when he predicted the Edition price would start at $9,999–but this weekend, his guess that a top-line Edition would hit $20,000 was off by $3,000. Gruber also consistently overestimated the price of the stainless steel Watch. In short, most of his price predictions were wrong.
And he was wrong about a gold Watch band, as well.
That said, Gruber was the only source we’ve identified who predicted that Apple would charge more for the 42mm Watch than the 38mm one. But his track record wasn’t as strong as Gurman’s: By the end of Monday, only 2 (25%) of Gruber’s predictions proved correct. 6 (75%) were false. Of course, of these 8 predictions, a few were revised versions of old predictions. And, to be fair, even when he’s wrong, Gruber’s posts about his predictions often help us think a little more like Apple.
As for the other rumormongers out there, some notable sites were off the mark:
For one thing, The Financial Times‘ “unconfirmed” price was wrong.
BGR had the same success rate as Grail Watch: half (1 out of 2) of its claims were right, half were wrong (though the second, accurate claim was basically a revised version of the first claim about the release date of iOS 8.2).
The 2 rumors we tracked on our scoreboard about non-announcements both turned out to be accurate (100%), like an iTunes subscription service not being announced (by 9to5Mac) or an iPad Pro not being announced (via Bloomberg).
5 out of 5 (100%) claims about the MacBook were accurate–in large part thanks to Mark Gurman, as well as accurate predictions by The Michael Report and Andrew Cunningham at Ars Technica (even though, technically, the new MacBook doesn’t have Air branding, as our subjects assumed).
Predictions about the Apple Watch’s battery life were more accurate than we expected. We logged 7 claims related to battery performance; by the end of the Apple event, 4 (57%) of those claims had been confirmed. 3 (43%) remain unconfirmed.
Apple TV rumors went 50/50: HBO Now did come to Apple, but there was no announcement about a refreshed Apple TV (just a price drop on the existing model), as the rumors Andrew Cunningham wrote about suggested.
It was clearly difficult to calculate the price of the Apple Watch, considering it is a new space for Apple and there are so many different models. Most of the guesses were wrong: Out of 20 Apple Watch price rumors that we tracked, only 6 (30%) of those rumors were correct and 14 were false. The steel Watches did not start at $999. The gold Watches were not $1,200 or $4,000. Jim Suva from Citigroup got the price of the steel Watch right–though his other 4 predictions, about the price of the gold Watch Edition and where and when to buy the Watch, were wrong. Suva’s accuracy rate? 20%.
Out of the 10 rumors that, as far as we can tell, were most widely shared online, 9 have been resolved. 6 were true. 3 were false. 2 of the correct claims were those predictions of what wouldn’t happen at the event: announcements of a Beats subscription and an iPad Pro.
There are still at least 37 unverified Apple Watch rumors floating out there, people!
Many analyst predictions involved the number of Watches Apple will supposedly sell this year, so a lot of those claims are of course still unverifiable.
But even in terms of predictions we can verify now, analysts weren’t particularly remarkable on the accuracy front. For example, Jim Suva made 5 claims, and he was proven wrong on all but one of them–he did accurately predict the starting price of the stainless steel Apple Watch. Rob Cihra of Evercore got one wrong and has one unverified. Same from Ming Chi Kuo of KGI securities. Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray got one right and one wrong.
The pace of rumors accelerated the closer we got to the event. Of the 88 rumors we tracked, 11 were posted in January, 27 were posted in February, and 32 surfaced in March (even though we were only 9 days into the month!).
There are rumors about Apple components we can’t confirm or disprove due to company secrecy: Did LG supply the screens and Samsung the processors? Did they use a new process to make harder gold? How much RAM and storage space does the Apple Watch actually have?
Also unanswered are all of the sales predictions made by analysts (for obvious reasons–you can’t even pre-order a Watch until April!).
Rumors are just rumors, and many Apple rumors eventually get proven or disproven–the proof is in the hardware and software when it eventually lands in the public’s hands, in the sales numbers at the registers.
But rumors–or predictions, guesses, claims, whatever you want to call them–do have real-life impact. For one thing, markets sometimes move on rumors. For another, we’re journalists–we want to engage with the truth!
Tracking Apple rumors over time, and collecting data on those rumors, can help us determine which sources are most accurate over time. This is the first time we’ve attempted a project like this, so it’s too early to say with any certainty which Apple rumor sources are the most reliable–though this week’s numbers gives us a good start.