The thrill is still gone. In Cupertino on Tuesday morning, Apple announced two new iPhone models. We’ve got the 5C, which comes with a plastic case in five different colors and has basically the same technology as the iPhone 5, only with a cheaper price tag, and the flagship iPhone 5S, an incremental improvement on the iPhone line — boasting a faster processor, better camera, and new “TouchID” technology that allows users to unlock their phones using their thumbprints.
Preorders start Friday, Sept. 13. Shipments start Sept. 20. The new operating system iOS 7, which will look considerably different from its predecessors and will ship with iTunes Radio, Apple’s much anticipated streaming music product, will be available for download on Sept. 18. UPDATE: Only the the 5C will be able for preorder on Sept. 13.
In other words, Apple announced basically what Apple watchers were already expecting. Rumor equaled reality — with only one real exception. The “beautifully, unapologetically” plastic-coated 5C is not the low-priced bottom-feeder designed to help Apple crack developing markets. It’s still an expensive phone.
Whether we can blame the transparency of Asian production supply lines or the loose lips of the post-Steve Jobs era for the lack of any real surprises at today’s Apple event is beside the point. Even if we hadn’t known anything in advance, there still wouldn’t have been anything to goggle at.
And this was despite the fact that so many people were armed and ready to goggle. The overwhelming tech press coverage of Apple’s event set a new standard for ludicrous overkill. I didn’t get to Cupertino myself, but through Twitter and liveblogs, I and the rest of the world were privy to a minute-by-minute slideshow complete with real-time analysis and a packed superhighway of snark that left no pixel uncovered.
Picture of press pass. Check. Entrance. Check. Inside! Check. The quest for Wi-Fi. Check. Biting commentary on vast gender disparity visible in audience. Check! Tim Cook’s shirt? Untucked!
Complaints about too much tweeting? Check. Complaints about the people complaining? Double check.
Excitement. Nope. Anticipation. Zero. Unless, maybe, you’re the kind of person whose boat gets floated by the news that “System alert sounds have been upgraded!” or that Siri will now be available in “great new high quality male voices.”
OK, that’s unfair. The iPhone 5S running iOS 7 will look and feel like a quality new phone. The new 64-bit A7 processor should substantially increase performance. The camera will be even more amazing than previous amazing cameras. The new colors are fun — and as someone who remembers how much a group of 12-year-old girls oohed and ahhed at a brand-new lime-green iPod Nano birthday present, I’d be the last person to discount purely stylistic innovations.
Apple also promised that the new thumbprint sensor will let us buy iTunes content and apps without having to type in our Apple password every single damn time. That’s just fine — although Twitter now seems convinced that iPhone thieves are poised to rampage in a mass-thumb-cutting-off spree. That, people, is the definition of dystopian. (Apple, by the way, promised that your thumbprint will never be uploaded to the cloud, but didn’t say anything about what will happen when the NSA wants to look inside your phone.)
Personally, I’m looking forward to upgrading somewhere down the line, although I didn’t see anything this morning that made me say I have to trade in my iPhone 4S today. But that wasn’t really what I was looking for.
What I wanted to see, frankly, was some sign that the spirit of Steve Jobs was still alive. In the post Jobsian era, we’ve been waiting for something really new, something that will shake up the status quo.
Blue, white, pink, yellow and green iPhones are not the ticket. We’re still waiting.