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6 things to remember about iPhone 6 rumors

Gossip about Apple's next iPhone is everywhere. Crave's Eric Mack has a half dozen things to keep in mind as you watch the rumor mill spin.

Welcome to the world's greatest guessing game. Video screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

Last week, you may have noticed some blog posts about a "leak" of the upcoming iPhone 6 supposedly showing up on Amazon's Japanese site. While CNET covers quite a few of the latest iPhone 6 rumors with the appropriate caveats and grains of salt, often they're just too thin or sketchy. In the case of the alleged Amazon Japan iPhone 6 page, we decided to pass.

I thought I'd let you in on part of the vetting process that I use when approaching the myriad rumors about the iPhone 6 and other gadgets that fly around the Web pretty much every day. Here goes:

1. "Leaks" could be the work of trolls. The Internet runs on the public's attention. So whatever topics humanity has the most interest in and searches for the most have the most currency. Since Apple is one of the most successful and recognizable companies worldwide, and the iPhone is its most popular product, which it only updates once a year, it draws an insane amount of attention online. Since that attention is the currency of the Web, all kinds of people (and probably a few bots) are looking for ways to convert the automatic attention the next iPhone garners into that currency. Some are legitimately interesting and creative efforts, like the best of the iPhone concepts that I often pass on. Others are likely just junk, or people trying a little too hard to connect dots that may or may not connect in the real world.

2. There can be ulterior motives behind a leak. I don't think this happens too often, but I do think that at certain points in my career I've been given information on good authority from industry sources just so a company can see what the reaction is to the leak. Just for the record, this has never happened in my experience with Apple, but I do believe it has happened with one of their competitors in the smartphone world. As such, I try to always give caveats that even the best-sourced leaks can't be trusted absolutely. And journalists aren't the only people companies might troll with info on purportedly important projects. Remember the alleged practice at Apple of assigning new engineers to fake projects until they've earned the company's trust?

3. Real info comes with an NDA. Plain and simple, if a company wants to give someone like me a peek at something before its official, controlled release, they're going to make me sign a non-disclosure agreement. This almost never happens until shortly before some sort of official announcement, though. So this means that the earlier a rumor comes out, like the crazy iPhone 6 gossip that started almost immediately after the release of the iPhone 5S, the bigger that all-important grain of salt.

4. Things can and do change. Welcome to the real world. The first iPhone was reportedly not ready for prime time when Steve Jobs introduced it on stage. With the iPhone 6, it may turn out that classified intelligence will reveal in August that a 5.5-inch form factor is exactly the right size sapphire-infused touchscreen the Decepticons have been searching the galaxy for to complete a super-weapon that will threaten all of humanity. If something like that were to go down, you can bet we'll never see a phablet-size iPhone 6, and that Michael Bay is probably already writing that script.

5. Look for multiple sources and physical proof. As we get closer to the actual launch date and the next iPhone has gone into production, which may have already happened at this point, the leaks start to gain more credence and they start to seem to confirm each other. At this point, it does seem to be a fairly safe bet that we know something about the shape and size of the iPhone 6, as well as that it will have a sapphire component to it, among other things. As for that early rumor from January that the next iPhone would launch in June 2014, I think we can count it out.

6. Let us keep track of it for you. CNET tracks all the rumors and posts the most noteworthy and interesting, providing a little context and our thoughts on how big the grain of salt you swallow with each should be. After all, if you wanna swim with the biggest sharks in the tech rumor ocean, you should probably plan on swallowing a little seawater.