News is an industry in which the smallest nugget of information can travel quickly from outlet to outlet, gathering steam and the illusion of credibility as it goes. Such was the case with a rumor that began on the Chinese microblogging service Weibo earlier this week.
Without citing sources, a user whose handle roughly translates to “cute jumping tiger” claimed that Google has contracted HTC to build all of its Nexus phones through 2018. The user has 19,277 followers on the service, plus over 77,000 posts, so, at the very least, they seem to be an established source of information.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard HTC’s name brought up with respect to new Nexus phones. Back in mid-June, another Weibo user said the Taiwanese phone maker had a pair of 5.0-inch and 5.5-inch handsets in the pipeline that were destined for Google’s Android showcase lineup. That rumor was later given a credibility bump by Twitter user @llabtoofer, who claimed to know the model numbers of these devices.
That said, there are a number of factors that may convince you to treat recent reports of an HTC-Google deal with skepticism. First, HTC has not been a Nexus handset partner since the very first Nexus One, which was released back in January 2010. The only other time HTC was involved in the program was through its design of late 2014’s Nexus 9 tablet. That device garnered somewhat positive reviews (8.4 average critic score, as evaluated by Engadget) but has some performance issues based on its use of an outlier system-on-a-chip, Nvidia’s Tegra K1.
Critical to evaluating any rumor, though, is ignoring one’s expectations of the topic at hand, and instead focusing on the track record and credibility of the source of the information. I’ve seen plenty of implausible rumors come to pass, and many plausible ones never materialize. Generally, the most reliable anchor is the perceived trustworthiness of the person issuing the report.
While the Weibo tipster in this case is undeniably prolific, the vast majority of their posts are simply reblogged from other sources: images found on government regulatory sites, like TENAA, or copies of material first published by other leakers. It’s difficult to imagine that a person so reliant on other sources for content also has the type of contacts who are aware of what would be a very closely guarded contract at this point. That’s not to say it’s impossible — information has many ways of leaking, and official channels are but one of them.
But generally, this is the type of high-level report I would expect to come out of outlets like the Wall Street Journal: publications with enough in-the-know sources to cobble together a story about a significant tie-up at a company that values secrecy as much as Google does. I wouldn’t say I’d be shocked if this came to pass — HTC’s declining fortunes in the handset market might make it keen on such a multi-year deal — but I’d certainly be surprised.
Then again, Google trusted LG with three Nexus handsets — the Nexus 4, Nexus 5, and Nexus 5X — so a multi-year deal would not be without precedent.