HTC M7

There’s rightfully some excitement online today about a newly leaked render claiming to show what’s next from HTC -- a high-end Android smartphone known by the codename “M7.” The image comes from UnwiredView via @evleaks, which has a good track record of bringing leaked images like this into public view.

The shot seems to show the front face of a phone with rounded corners, the standard assortment of ports and sensors, and an unusual front-facing speaker setup -- or an even weirder earpiece and microphone arrangement. It looks more than a little odd. Yes, it looks a lot like an iPhone.

But to understand what’s going on with this render, it’s worth underscoring where it actually came from, and looking briefly at the history surrounding these kinds of leaks. Unlike many leaked renders, it wasn’t created to show of the device to the public and press. Consider these sentences from the original post:

"The render is apparently part of a short animation clip instructing new owners on first-time SIM card installation. However, the lack of branding and other details (distinct screen borders, for instance) suggest that this is not the exact design HTC is expected to debut at next month’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.”

As an early leak, this is great stuff. But it's worth remembering that while this render might well come from an early version of the M7 ROM, it's not necessarily a lock for what the phone will look like. And there's precedent for this sort of thing, where early renders end up looking nothing like what's announced.

Let's have a look back.

As a general rule, pre-release images should be taken with a pinch of salt. As we’ve learned from talking to manufacturers off (and sometimes on) the record, smartphones, like any product, go through various design iterations before hitting store shelves. Various design tracks could be in play in the months before release, before eventually being abandoned in favor of a winning design. Recall the two images below, genuine HTC leaks showing the device that eventually became the One X. Yet the finished product bears little resemblance.

HTC leak HTC leak

So designs evolve over time. And some manufacturers, such as Samsung, even develop several versions of major handsets in order to decrease the likelihood of the real thing leaking out. Such is the importance of keeping under wraps the final design of a much-anticipated device.

Unwired View's scoop here is a good leak. Maybe today’s image is HTC’s next big thing, or at least some rough version of it. If you ignore the apparent iPhone similarities, the basic shape isn’t a million miles away from that of phones like the EVO 4G LTE and Droid DNA. But more likely, we think, it’s a placeholder or an early prototype, and what we eventually see from the Taiwanese manufacturer will take a somewhat different form. Sometimes a render will tell the entire story of a phone before we've even penciled the launch event into our calendar. In other cases, like this one, a render is just a render.