Apple, Apathy and Tomorrow’s Big Announcement

I was at the barbershop the other day, getting my hair cut as I do every few weeks, when my barber says to the room, “Isn’t the new iPhone supposed to be coming out soon?” I’m about to open my mouth when a guy sitting in a chair to my left peeks up from his phone to say, “Beginning of October. Who cares anyways, Apple doesn’t have anything for me anymore.” Then he went back to playing with his HTC One.

Surly and inaccurate statements aside, I’ve heard similar thoughts voiced amongst the Apple community. The feeling seems to be that Apple’s already pulled out all of its magic tricks, what could they show us tomorrow that would really wow the crowd? What’s the big feature this year? Do they have one more thing in them or have we seen all the magic left to offer?

Who knows. But more importantly, why do you care?

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Predictions and Premonitions

There have been six versions of the iPhone out on the market to date: The original iPhone, the 3G, 3GS, 4, 4S and now the 5. What we have now, for the most part, is a pattern that seems to be forming. With the 3G came a new case, and that lasted until the iPhone 4. The iPhone 4’s case and styling lasted until the iPhone 5’s introduction last year, and so many thing the iPhone 5S is what we’ll see tomorrow when Apple gives their big talk.

And that’s part of the problem. Many people have assumed that this means an incremental update for the phone. This hypothetical iPhone 5S will have improvements for sure — faster processor, a better camera, maybe a new color — but nothing revolutionary. When the iPhone 6 comes out though, that will be the one that’s cool, or at least that’s how the pundits theorize.

This sets people up for low expectations on the device, and therefore, interest wanes. Now don’t get me wrong, Apple will sell millions of these phones as they always do, and likely more than they did the year before. But people are starting to get apathetic about the whole process, feeling like it’s just another rung in the ladder.

So for you — the pumpkin latte ordering douche at Starbucks who complains about the free Wi-Fi not being fast enough — to assert that you would know what Jobs would do is just an asinine statement. Shut up.

As evidence of this, there was another conversation that I had with a coworker of mine (not at AppStorm, natch) about this new iPhone. He says, “I love Apple’s stuff, but why do they have to come up with a new phone every year? It’s just too much. I wish I could like Android just so I didn’t have to buy in every 12 months.” My response was that Apple’s relatively predictable release schedule was an advantage — you never know when Samsung is releasing their new phone, and if you’re the person who wants the latest and greatest, then you can never plan ahead. For me, a guy who does buy the new iPhone yearly, I’ve gotten into a system where I put money aside in advance. I know a new iPhone is coming in the fall, so I plan accordingly. I couldn’t do that if I were an Android guy, at least not this far in advance.

Still, this constant cycle of new and old products has caused him to get tired of the churn, and that’s why he’s losing interest. 

The Slowing of the Hype Machine

Truth be told, there aren’t a ton of new features that could be crammed into an iPhone that make it very intriguing. The display is top notch, so there’s not much improvement there. The size is ideal in my book, but even making it bigger doesn’t necessarily seem like an advantage, particularly when it’s in my pocket. There are lots of rumors about colors being introduced, and then there’s the omnipresent “low-cost iPhone” concept that’s been shifting around for years. But even the rumored fingerprint sensor isn’t that exciting. What could be next?

Mockup of the iPhone 5S's presumed fingerprint sensor via <a href=""></a>.

Mockup of the iPhone 5S’s presumed fingerprint sensor via

That seems to be the problem with most of my friends who are complaining about this new product release. They’re burned out. It’s too much hype for too long. They can’t constantly get into whatever new device it happens to be, they just want out. Now.

As tech junkies, we all love to find out what’s new and cool coming to market. But with the iPhone, it seems like we’re close to hitting the wall of what’s possible and what’s reality — at least for the near future. You could argue that someday we’ll have holographic phones akin to R2-D2 and all that, but right now, there’s not much to add to the plate. At least nothing that seems particularly awesome. 

The Steve Jobs Argument

Know what I hear a lot too? “Steve Jobs would never have done [insert name of product here].” I guarantee that no matter what’s released tomorrow, we’ll hear this from some blogger who thinks they know better. My response usually goes like this: “Shut up. Just shut up, please. JUST SHUT UP.”

There is exactly one person who knows what Steve Jobs ever would have done, and that person was Steve Jobs. If there was a second person, the argument could be made that either his wife or Tim Cook would know fairly well, and yet, they’re still not Steve. Let’s not speak ill of the dead, nor shall we put words in his mouth. Love him or hate him, Jobs had a profound impact on not only Apple, but society as a whole. So for you — the pumpkin latte ordering douche at Starbucks who complains about the free Wi-Fi not being fast enough — to assert that you would know what Jobs would do is just an asinine statement. Shut up.

The Other Side of the Coin

Look, I get caught up in the hype of these new product launches just like anyone else, if not more so, since this is my job and all that. And I too have felt the sting of feature burnout, and I’ve started to wonder what Apple could really do to impress me this time around as well. But then I started looking at it another way.

No one is forcing you to buy a new iPhone. If you’re in a two-year contract, and you have to pay more for the next iPhone, then don’t buy it. If you don’t like what Apple’s putting out there, then vote with your dollars and don’t give them a dime. It’s really that simple. And if that’s your choice, cool — just don’t sit here and complain to me about how much Apple sucks when you’re typing your hate letter to Tim Cook on a MacBook Air with your iPad playing Spotify in the background.

I buy Apple products because I believe in spending more money for quality objects that will do their purpose reliably for the amount of time I expect. I own a MacBook Air and it’s the best machine I’ve ever owned, with a close second being the Air I owned before this one, which my wife now uses daily. I could use my iPhone 5 for another year, but I want the presumably better camera for taking pictures of my kids as they grow up. And I do want whatever new features are available, because I like having that information for the site. But please, these are my reasons why. Whatever you decide to do is your call.

The Next Big Thing

So what’s the solution to the widespread apathy and snide remarks that so many seem to be making nowadays? If you’re me, you ignore them and move on. After all, my “don’t give a crap” meter gets pegged pretty high around this time of year, what with all of the negative comments circulating around Apple. But there is another option, and that’s the next thing.

Should Apple announce a new product tomorrow — one that no one has seen or heard of yet, like the fabled Apple TV (the big one) or an iWatch — then that could just steal the next iPhone’s thunder. And should that device be so awesome that it’s just as revolutionary as the iPhone when it was first introduced, then we’ll start to see people stop complaining about what the iPhone doesn’t have, and start talking about how cool this next new thing is.

Then the only problem will be going through this process all over again with the next big thing.