a week in wireless

Comparing apples with apples

Predictable though it is, the Informer just had to reflect on Apple’s mega launch this week. Unveiling three major new products at one event is just showing off. Apple probably had half of this gear sitting around for years, but it just felt like lulling its competitors into a false sense of security, before giving them so much to worry about that Samsung has presumably had to hire armies of therapists just to keep its senior execs sane.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has done a good job maintaining the theatrical nature of Apple product launches, even if he lacks Steve Jobs’ more messianic qualities. There were the usual tortured superlatives – the Apple Watch is apparently “Apple’s Most Personal Device Ever”, and that’s saying something as it’s produced some pretty damn personal stuff in its time. The event choreography has been slavishly maintained, right down to appearances from middle-of-the-road rock acts and the old “…one more thing” chestnut.

Following the launch via various live blogs offered a lesson on objectivity and understatement, not. Such was the pace of an event that offered three major announcements in the time it would normally allocate to just one, that the ecstatic writers started showing symptoms of chronic over-stimulation. Even the smallest, most incremental revelation was acknowledged with religious fervour and adjectives such as ‘insane’ and ‘sick’ somehow found their way into the breathless narrative.

Now don’t get me wrong, it was a pretty good effort by Apple, and nobody does product launches in quite the same way. Many try, but as Samsung found out at the start of the year, a lot can go wrong. It’s possible that only an Apple level of control-freakery can ensure such things go without a hitch, such as using an actual apple to notify JPMorgan Chase’s CFO when she’s allowed to talk about Apple. That trait may also contribute to the US media’s cult-like devotion to the company, but Apple appears to have taken its belief that it knows what’s best for its punters a step too far this week.

One of the reasons U2 attended the event was to plug its new album. Thanks largely to Apple and iTunes the music industry has been tuned on its head; where bands once toured to promote their album, they now give their albums away to generate demand for live events. This proved to be the case with U2’s latest effort – Songs of Innocence – which was launched for free on iTunes at the event. But they didn’t stop there; treating universal demand for their new material as a given, the earnest rockers conspired with Apple to push the whole album into everyone’s iTunes account, which amounts to around half a billion people.

The resulting on-message quotes just served to further emphasise the supercilious hauteur of the guilty parties. “The most personal album we’ve written could be shared with half a billion people… by hitting send. If only songwriting was that easy,” gushed Bono. “We get to share our love of music today by gifting this great new album to over half a billion iTunes customers around the world,” beamed Eddie Cue of Apple.

iphone 6 price comparisonWhat neither of them seemed to anticipate was that some punters might take exception to having music forced on them in this way. Twitter was awash with irate iTuners bemoaning the hijacking of their precious storage which, incidentally, Apple charges a lot for. And at time of writing the fourth most read story on the BBC website was entitled “How to delete your free U2 album”.

But perhaps the finest piece of commentary on the Apple launches appeared today in a newspaper that shall remain nameless that is distributed for free on London’s transport network every morning. An eagle-eyed reporter noticed we were going to have to pay more for our shiny new iPhone over here than in the US, and not just a bit. Both the reporter and Which? Were apparently at a loss to explain this shocking gulf, but the Informer suggests they might have been comparing an unsubsidised UK price with a subsidised US one.

Take care.

The Informer

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