If there is one word that is often used to describe Apple it is “secretive.” The Cupertino, California firm is legendary for its corporate tight lips. Increasingly, however, there are few secrets left when it comes to Apple products. A number of insiders are blaming Apple’s extensive supply chain and companies outside the US.

“Apple’s security practices are targeted at making sure U.S. employees don’t leak stuff, but everything comes out of China now,” an unnamed employee of the iPhone maker told Ars Technica Monday. This inability to ensure suppliers outside the U.S. share the same regard for product secrecy has led Apple to tighten the screws on employees at home – sometimes with questionable results.

One Apple employee told Ars Technica that the company’s secrecy “is really outdated”. Since manufacturing is all done overseas, “it may be hard to surprise people over anything in the future”, said another employee. In just October, we’ve written stories about leaked iPad mini case photos, leaked battery specs, leaked iPad mini pricing and much, much more.

Probably one of the most public slip-ups of Apple security happened last year when an employee “lost” an iPhone 4 prototype and negotiations for its return were splashed all over tech news sites. As a result, only a few people are allowed to take new products off the Apple campus.

One employee called the limitation “really disturbing” since the restriction prevents the testing that would give engineers confidence that their products will operate correctly when in the hands of consumers.

Another result of lack of effective security surrounding Apple products, the company has shrunken the lead time Apple Store employees have to learn about new software, according to the publication.

In the past, store employees would get a week head-start to learn the ins-and-outs of new iOS or OSX software, enabling them to intelligently answer questions. Now Apple retail employees get as little as 12 hours before new software is sold to the public.

The report paints a picture of Apple as the victim of its own far-flung supply-chain. In order to squeeze out the kind of profit margins that Wall Street has learned to expect from the iPhone maker, Apple must use overseas assembly and manufacturing, employees of which do not share the excitement over an upcoming product they worked hard to design.

But by turning events such as Tuesday’s iPad unveiling into simply a fait accompli, the company risks killing the golden goose.

Consumers pay more for Apple products largely for their mystique of uniqueness, of being part of a select group. However, if every detail about an unannounced product is already known, little separates an Apple device from any other product on a retailer’s shelves.

What do you think? Are leaks threatening to sink Apple?

  • It all started with a guy named Gary and a lost article at the bar.

  • I guess this is why many companies present their products long before their release date, so people know about it, and won’t be surprised when seeing it anywhere.

  • Greg Hao

    >>Consumers pay more for Apple products largely for their mystique of uniqueness, of being part of a select group.<<

    In 2012, is that really even true anymore? The iPhone 4S was leaked months before, it seems like the iPhone 5 was developed right out in the open by the leaks yet these two products have both sold out the instant they were announced and have smashed sales records.

    Can the phone with the largest market share make someone feel like they're a part of a "select" group? Or how about every time I walk into a Starbucks and nothing but Apple logos stare back at me from people's Macbooks?

    I understand that in absolute terms AAPL is still not the market leader but they are thought of as such as seemingly in all the places that matters all one sees are their products.

    There's nothing wrong with that but just as AAPL's security policies are increasingly out of touch so is the idea that their products belong only to a select group of people.

    • TMI, but good opinion.

    • ReanimationXP

      “Select group” doesn’t imply minority or secret club. I get what you’re saying but just because a group is large doesn’t mean they can’t be a bit elitist. Apple definitely wants consumers to think they’re part of a select group.

      That being said I think the quote is untrue anyway. Apple’s become less of a secret club and more of a status symbol due to their shine and quality people have come to expect. People buy largely based on that (and great user experience).. not to be part of a select group.

      If there’s any “club” mentality, it’s only because people love their phone so much they want others to get one too.. “fanatics” if you will. I’d definitely fall into that category.

  • ReanimationXP

    Headline of the year.

  • This could grow to a huge problem. Apple lost a lot of mystiqueness through leaked parts.
    But isn’t that also the news sites and blogs fault always picking every little piece of leaked shit throwing it to the Internet media hoping on a huge click count?
    Wouldn’t there be lesser leaks if sites like idb, 9to5, tech crunch aso would boycott news like this?