Last night I sat for almost two hours on an achingly stylish chair. In every sense of the word. Apple’s designer seating is not the best for lengthy keynotes. The reason for my prolonged discomfort was Tim Cook. Projected in front of us at a private London event, Mr Cook made his first public appearance as Apple’s new CEO and calmly ushered in a new age for the iconic manufacturer. But it didn’t go well.
Within minutes of his closing remarks, the web’s tech vultures had descended on the newly-announced iPhone 4S. “I Am Disappoint” groaned Gizmodo. “Ho well, there’s always next June,” lamented Pocket-Lint, and even TechRadar’s usually chipper Patrick Goss sniffed that “it is difficult not to feel a little underwhelmed.”
But they’re missing the point. Many of the web’s most experienced commentators are so busy grumbling about the familiar design of the new iPhone, they haven’t noticed that Apple doesn’t need a new design, and has no reason to rush one out of the door.
Even accounting for its antenna trouble, the shape, size and proportions of the iPhone 4 were always spot on. Reviews from those same sites said so. So what could possibly be grinding these tech hacks’ gears?
Inside, the iPhone 4S packs in rumour-satisfying kit like never before. There’s the much-leaked, and vastly improved camera. Siri voice control. The A5 processor and a beefed up battery. iCloud. A friend-finding location service. 1080p HD video recording and faster 3G (through a clever dual antenna system). It should be, by any yardstick imaginable, a home run.
Pretty much the only rumour Apple failed to tick off the list was NFC and an iPhone-powered digital wallet. But if that’s standing in the way of punditry praise, why did every single one of those sites rank the iPhone 4 as being better than, say, the Nexus S? NFC can’t be that important, can it?
No, Of course not. It’s much shallower than that.
The single missing feature which seems to have irked the tech press so much is the lack of a new shape. Not a thinner shape, or a lighter shape, a curvier shape or a more rigid shape… just a new shape.
They are, with few exceptions, howling with pained exasperation at the device they’ve pined after for months, wrapped up in a shell they’ve already professed to love. Honestly, there’s just no pleasing some people…
In the meantime, those eyeing up an iPhone 4S will doubtless be grateful that there are tons of cases and accessories already available. There won’t be a shortage at launch, as was the case with the original iPhone 4, and there’s the possibility that much of their old kit can continue to function without adjustment or replacement, should they upgrade from an iPhone 4 or 3G, or 3GS.
Let me tell you from personal experience: Once you’ve bought one £50 Apple dock, you don’t buy another, you get the Dremel out, and hope for the best. Thankfully, most upgraders will be spared this DIY nightmare. The plastic dust gets everywhere.
Of course, any new iPhone 4S owners will miss out on a few bragging rights. It won’t be immediately obvious to every passing person that you’re cradling a brand new iThing. But, personally, I’m glad that on my next train journey nobody will know whether I’m using an old iPhone, or a new iPhone. For once, Apple’s upgrade itch isn’t so scratchy, because my gadget envy is vastly reduced by simply not seeing their new iMusthave at every turn. For once, ignorance really is bliss.
And in the meantime, while I’m slowly considering whether to add an S to the end of my iPhone’s name or not, Samsung and Co have plenty of time to lure me to the green green grass of Android. Or Windows Phone.
Apple’s lack of physical change has offered a rare chance for the competition to break from the norm, and this can only be a good thing.
Rather than continue churning out lookalike black slabs with curiously familiar home screens, the Android mob has the maneuvering room it needs to create eye-popping new designs, fine-tune their software, and perhaps dodge any more of those troublesome intellectual property lawsuits.
Sometimes change for the sake of it is a bad thing. I can’t help but notice the iPod nano and iPod touch are similarly static in the design stakes, and while some will decry Apple’s lack of ‘innovation’ in the area, perhaps the old adage rings true: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Unless it’s those bloody designer chairs. Please Apple, get them swapped for something more cushiony in time for the iPhone 5. Thanks.
Original image by Jason Cartwright