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BW Businessworld

Much as Expected

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Apple has been known for keeping its upcoming cult products under wraps right until the announcements are well underway. No one could even be sure what product they would launch. Not this time. Either Apple is losing its grip on secrecy or people have just got better at ferreting out the truth from somewhere. 
 
Practically every bit of the iPhone 5 had been “leaked” in pictures, speculation, rumours and articles, right down to connectors, ear-phones, and dimensions. The “And one more thing…” Steve Jobs used to play on in his presentations, never came to pass, not even by another name.
 
Everything was in the regular Apple format, except there were no surprises. Twitter didn’t catch fire. The tech media didn’t salivate. And some people just went to sleep. Except, of course, the fanboys, who will never know Apple-induced disappointment no matter what.
 
It would be fair to stop and reflect over whether it’s fair to expect a fresh miracle every time Apple holds an event. This time, the pressure on Apple was so much that the top execs were reported as looking tense and nervous before the show in Yerba Buena Center for Arts, San Francisco, started. In what has been dubbed “false economics” JP Morgan analyst Michael Feroli claimed the new iPhone could “potentially add” upto 0.50 percentage points to fourth-quarter GDP growth in the US. Just to connect the words iPhone and GDP could be hair raising enough. 
 
So right on cue, the iPhone 5 was unveiled by Phil Schiller, Apple's marketing chief. It turns out to be a finessing or an iteration of the iPhone we know (and in India, can barely afford). It’s taller and houses five rows of icons, but not broader so that your hand still curls around it, lighter, all aluminum and glass, has a 4-inch retina display, supports LTE, is said to have better battery life, and has numerous interesting sounding improvements to its 8-megapixel camera. Where’s the wow factor that Apple practically invented? In fact, because the world already knows what the operating system, iOS 6 (to be released 19 September for Apple’s mobile devices) is all about, the “200 new features” are no surprise either. If only Apple had been able to work with a schedule that kept the software a state secret, there may have been more excitement to the iPhone 5 launch, although even there, each individual feature (notifications, Facebook integration) was being presented as if it were life-changing.
 
iPhone5For us in India, although the iPhone 4s has been a coveted device, there are a tonne of capabilities that are all but irrelevant. LTE, for instance. Maps and directions, information in Siri’s fingertips, her ability to understand what we say, Passbook and its support by vendors, are unknown quantities. We’ll have to see it when we see it. India will probably have to wait until December for the arrival of the iPhone 5 in any case.
 
There were refreshes to Apple’s iPod Touch and Nano music players that should give the line of products a new lease of life. The Nano looks like a little iPhone. And the iPod Touch is sleeker. Even iTunes is refreshed and is due get complicated with a bit of Facebook integration. If this show breaks the cycle of pre-launch hype, it wouldn’t be a bad thing, but perhaps that’s too much to hope. One can hardly blame them. But as a journalist friend reminded me, Apple is no ordinary
company, and that’s both because of the company and its fans. Expectations can’t be throttled. Mine however, lie writhing on the floor at the moment. Apple’s own tagline sums up the event quite well: “The Biggest Thing to Happen to iPhone Since iPhone”. The problem is people expected the biggest innovation
since the iPhone.