Demystifying the Site Behind the Latest Apple Leaks

By Niraj Chokshi

When photos of a new-looking iPod Touch surfaced online last week, there was one question on everyone's mind: What is the deal with this Vietnamese site and its Apple leaks?

The iPod Touch was the third unreleased Apple product featured on the Vietnamese technology forum Tinh Tế over the course of a week. It was preceded by what are generally accepted to be pictures of genuine and unreleased iPhone and MacBook models.

Last week we rounded up what little we could about the forum behind the leaks and, over the weekend, we got in touch with the forum's founder. He responded to my Facebook messages in somewhat broken English. Here's what we learned.

His name is Trần Mạnh Hiệp. The Associated Press first identified him and described Hiệp as a mobile phone accessory salesman, which he said is "rite and not." He founded and manages a company called Vimobi, which runs both the tech forum and Khắc tên, a store that indeed sells phone and electronics accessories. (Kachten.com appears onscreen at the end of the iPod Touch video.) But Hiệp also identifies himself as a journalist and said he reports tech news on his forum. In fact, he agreed to answer our questions "cause i am a reporter :D just like you."

Unlike its aggressive legal actions against Gizmodo, Apple has not reached out to anyone involved in the alleged leaks. No one involved in the Vietnam leaks has contacted Apple either, Hiệp said. The authenticity of the featured products is still unverified.

Hiệp told the AP that he heard there was someone in a cafe showing off the iPhone prototype, so he found the guy, took photos and recorded a video, and dutifully posted them on his forum. He confirmed that account to us and said he obtained the iPod Touch in a similar manner. It had been in the posession of a man Hiệp "met at Cafe Tinh Tế," which is located in Ho Chi Minh City and is where the forum's members "play around," Hiệp said.

He didn't know where or how the iPhone or iPod Touch were obtained, but guessed that both came from the United States because that's where most Vietnamese mobile products come from, he said, and a "lot of Vietnamese live there." The Macbook video was posted by another Tinh Tế reporter, he said.

Hiệp took the photos of both the iPhone and iPod Touch and a friend videotaped him as he demonstrated each. He doesn't have any other Apple products in the pipeline, but he promised to post whatever he can get his hands on.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/05/demystifying-the-site-behind-the-latest-apple-leaks/57154/