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Op-Ed: Few Surprises At A Much Too Scripted Apple iPhone Event

When I was in my teens, I figured out where my parents hid my Christmas gifts. For a few weeks right after school, I actually played with a few of the computer games I was going to find under the tree. I would carefully wrap the gifts again each night before Mom and Dad got home. That was a really stupid thing for me to do. By the time Christmas rolled around, I not only had to act surprised when I opened my gifts, but then play with the games as if they were new. After watching Apple’s iPhone event today, I felt a lot like that kid so many years ago. Leaks happen before a technology company launches a new product. After all, there are just too many suppliers out there to keep things entirely quiet. This year, I’m more convinced than ever that the biggest leaker of Apple news wasn’t some low level employee at Foxconn or Samsung. Rather, it was Apple itself that did much of the leaking. How else can one explain the show we just experienced? As I told a colleague soon after Tim Cook exited the stage, 95 percent of our stories published today could have been written weeks ago, which would have saved us each a lot of time. I am sure that most would agree that knowing so much beforehand made the overall event feel like a letdown. And I'm sure the last thing Apple needs right now is a bunch of would-be buyers feeling deflated. This isn’t to say that much of what Apple unveiled wasn’t exciting, because it was. And yes, Apple did drop a few surprises, which was nice. So what did we find out? Take a look.

The iPhone 5C

For the first time, Apple is offering a brand new iPhone model for as little as $99. For that, a buyer will receive a handset with most of the internals of last year’s flagship model, plus get a choice of colors. The 16GB iPhone 5C model sells for $99, while a 32GB model will set you back $199. Both require a two year contract. They launch in the United States, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore, and the United Kingdom on Friday, Sept. 20, and customers can preorder an iPhone 5C beginning this Friday, Sept.13. The biggest surprise about the iPhone 5C has little to do with the device itself. Rather, it’s the line of iPhone 5C cases that are also launching. Available for just $29, the cases are available in six different hues including black, red, and blue.

The iPhone 5S

Apple’s newest flagship device, like the iPhone 4S before it, is an evolutionary product. As a result, it looks just like its predecessor, the discontinued iPhone 5, at least on the outside. Inside, the iPhone 5S has received a number of updates. Surprisingly, some of the changes weren’t leaked prior to the event. For example, we never heard about an M7 motion coprocessor before, or that the A7 chip would include 64-bit architecture. I was also pleasantly surprised to see a new “space gray” color option for the iPhone 5S. This joins the previously rumored gold and silver models. And yes, Touch ID looks incredible, and also serves a useful purpose. A major pet peeve is that Apple isn’t offering preorders for the iPhone 5S. With millions of folks now buying phones online, this just doesn’t make a lot of sense. Now, in order to receive a new iPhone 5S on launch day, we’ll need to head out the door. What's this about, Apple?

iOS 7

Was it really necessary to do a rehash of iOS 7? I think not, although I did find humor in Apple trying to hide the specific iPhone model in the iOS 7 screenshots. By on this point, the devil is in the details. We’ll know sure enough whether iOS 7 will arrive with a bug or two, or whether we’ll see another Maps moment like we did in 2012. One nice surprise: There will be no delay for the launch of iOS 7 on the iPad, as the update arrives for all iDevices on Sept. 18.

Missing in Action

We didn’t see a new Apple TV announced in Cupertino, or even a new OS to run on the existing device. We also didn’t spot an iPhone 5S with 128GB of memory. Both were expected, but weren't announced.

Odds and Ends

Love of music The iPhone event showed just how important music remains for Apple. As such, it began with Tim Cook noting the success of the iTunes Festival in London, and ended with a live performance by Elvis Costello. In between, we heard more about iTunes Radio. I hope all of this music talk means that Apple is keeping the iPod Classic around, or better yet, will be releasing a new model in October. Apple's success will forever be tied to the original iPod. Hopefully, they won't forget that. No video streaming As many have complained about across the blogosphere, Apple didn’t provide live video streaming of the iPhone event. This doesn’t make a lot of sense, especially given that they did provide a recording just minutes after the event ended. This would be fine if this were six years ago and high-speed Internet was still new. It would also make some sense if Apple never offered live video streaming for events, but they sometimes do. In June, for example, they live streamed coverage of the WWDC keynote. Apple’s schizophrenic approach to covering important press events should end, or at least be clarified. Doing so would make announcement days much easier for would-be buyers to follow.


My biggest complaint about Apple's event was that it didn't offer many surprises. Steve Jobs always had that little trick down and it is greatly missed. Without big surprises, these events become stale and less important, and that is a shame. Equally upsetting is seeing Apple remove preorders for their flagship phone. This makes buying a new phone much more difficult, and sort of feels like a poke in the eye to long-term iPhone users. You know, those users that are much more likely to want a new iPhone on the first day of release. For more information on the iPhone event, see: AppAdvice's 2013 Apple iPhone Event Link Roundup - Find All Of Our Coverage HereAs Expected, No New iPads Announced At Today's Media Event, and Miss The Keynote? Watch Apple's Video Of The iPhone 5C And 5S Event Now.
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