News & Views
Has Apple’s hype culture balloon finally burst?

It happens once a year: people all over the world wait with bated breath for the newest iPhone to be unveiled, then flood to shops in their millions to claim one for themselves. This year’s launch event was a little different though, as it was seen by many as an opportunity for Apple CEO Tim Cook to show everyone that the popular brand is still in safe hands following the death of Steve Jobs in 2011.

As usual, the internet was running wild with speculation and anticipation; wish lists were generated comprising what people most wanted to see in the iPhone 5. A longer lasting battery and faster processor were common suggestions, while a larger screen and slighter design seemed certain following the numerous blurred “factory leak” photos that had popped up across the web over the last year.

Finally, the iPhone 5 was revealed – not with a bang, but with a whimper. Yes, the larger screen and thinner, lighter design were there, as promised, as was iOS6, the next generation operating system. But wasn’t it just more of the same? Variations on a theme, as opposed to genuine innovation? At the very least, when they unveiled the iPhone 4S last year, it included the digital assistant Siri, a brand new feature (whether Siri is genuinely helpful or mere novelty is up for discussion).

Think about it. Recent years have brought us huge developments in Apple products, not least of which is the iPad, a current leader in the tablet device market. The iPhone 5 marks the first time that a new Apple product has not been met with a ubiquitous small-child-on-Christmas-morning reaction. While critics are still praising Apple’s aesthetic appeal, its reputation as a smartphone developer first and foremost might be in trouble. The Guardian’s Dan Gillmor called the iPhone 5 “brilliant – but not best in class”, while in a review by CNET UK, the new model was called “gorgeous but not perfect”.

According to one estimate by a Wall Street analyst, Apple could sell up to 45 million new iPhones in the first three months. Current sales are healthy enough to suggest that this figure may very well be met, and hardcore fans of Apple will no doubt flock to get their hands on anything which displays a half-eaten piece of fruit on the packaging. But winning new converts may be more of a struggle, with Apple now facing more immediate competition. It managed to edge BlackBerry out of the smartphone market, but Samsung are the newest pretenders to the throne, with the Galaxy S III handset matching the iPhone 5 spec for spec. The web is now rife with “iPhone vs Galaxy” comparison blogs, the way it used to be with “iPhone vs Blackberry”.

It makes you think. This time next year, will we be on the edge of our seats waiting for the iPhone 6, or will another hyperbolic brand have captured our attention – and more importantly, our cash?

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