The most important detail about Tuesday's iPhone announcement

...speaks volumes about Apple under chief executive Tim Cook. Or does it? I can't figure it out.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

At this point, it is pretty much assumed that tomorrow, during its scheduled press event, Apple will introduce two new iPhone models: a high-end successor to its existing iPhone 5, and a low-end replacement of that device that will come in multiple colors and help bolster the company's efforts to enter emerging markets overseas, which have traditionally preferred cheaper, Google Android-based handsets.

There have been dozens of reports over the last few weeks that have corroborated the claim, moving the idea from rumor to near-fact.

Apple still has the power and opportunity to surprise, and we'll find out for sure tomorrow. (Something tells me iPhone isn't the only product that will get its due.) But among all the juicy storylines in this tale—Apple's attempt to maintain unprecedented momentum; its inability to crack the lucrative Chinese market; the gradual relaxation of its once-strict guidelines on execution (fewer products!) and attitude (all-knowing!)—this detail in a New York Times report by Brian X. Chen this weekend stuck out to me: 

Despite Apple's efforts to keep its plans secret, clues about the new iPhones leaked out. China Telecom briefly posted a message last week on a blog platform soliciting early orders for the new devices. It identified the high-end model as the iPhone 5S, and the lower-cost one as the iPhone 5C. The post was later removed. A spokesman for China Telecom declined to comment, citing nondisclosure agreements.

A year ago, I gave the U.S. tech company its due for managing to surprise the press and public with a number of product announcements: the iPad mini, the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, refreshed iPads and iMacs. That was in October, ahead of the holiday rush.

But no matter what the company has in store tomorrow, it is clear that many critical details of its most lucrative product—iPhone—have emerged ahead of the announcement. (And perhaps ahead of the one after that, in the case of a rumored six-inch model.)

Chief executive Tim Cook has promised more openness than his predecessor, Steven Jobs, but I doubt this is the kind he had in mind.

I can't figure out if 2013-era Apple lacks control of the many partners in its sprawling supply chain, or if it merely sees complete secrecy two months before launch as less of a priority than it used to be.

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