Tech Press Gets It Wrong on iPhone 4S

| The Devil's Advocate

I’ve noticed a trend with the press and analysts/pundits covering technology. They’re spectacularly stupid and suspiciously jaundiced against Apple. Likely because they’re buoyed by enough anti-Apple tech hipster “individuals” that need to show how alternative they are. Which leads to the latest tech press idiocy noting the “failure” of Apple’s latest iPhone 4S event. Of course, they couldn’t be more wrong. They’re ignoring the past and, amazingly, ignoring the significance of Siri.

iPhone 4SWe’ve seen this

Apple did this once before. It released a somewhat modest upgrade from the first iPhone model called the iPhone 3G. But you see, Apple called the new phone an iPhone 3G instead of an iPhone 1S. And its shape was a bit different, so that must mean it’s new! Later, Apple upgraded the relatively slow iPhone 3G to the iPhone 3GS. Everyone that’s had both knows one is painful, and the other is a fantastically usable phone. The spec sheet certainly wouldn’t be telling; but the reality of using the 3GS was that it was an order of magnitude better despite it physically appearing identical to the older iPhone 3G. The market bore out that Apple knew better and the iPhone 3GS was a fantastic success; it’s still selling after 2+ years on the market!

Now they’re at it again. The same tech analysts and press are saying how “disappointing” the iPhone 4S event was. And how awful a job Apple did. This is some of the most stellarly jaundiced and/or inane analysis by the tech press in a long time.

This same tech press said the iPod would fail, the iPhone would fail, the Apple Stores would fail, the iPad was a big iPod touch and would fail. The same press that goes to pains to find anything to laud about what are comparatively crappy alternatives (namely Android), that if viewed under the same filter as they use for Apple, would rightly be considered pure dung.

For example, if Apple is lame for making the iPad a “big iPod touch” how heinously awful a view should the tech press and analysts have of Android tablets? These Android tablets are not even the equivalent of a “big Android phone”? Yet, by and large, the tech press finds a way to avoid applying equal filters, and offers damning praise to the iPad and hopeful recommendations of Android tablets.

So here’s how the tech press got this all wrong

First, the iPhone 4S is a major upgrade to the iPhone 4 that equals or exceeds the differences between the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 3G, and remember, the iPhone 3GS was a spectacular success that’s still selling. Second, Apple is providing FREE-to-acquire and $99 sale point options for the first time with the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4. Third, Apple is launching the iPhone 4S in a zillion countries almost simultaneously (a feather in in Tim Cook’s cap).

Fourth, and most importantly, we have Siri, which unlike all the stupid Car Dial Number/Android Play Song/Take Crap Dictation features that the industry has been “satisfied” with, takes voice technology to where only SciFi depictions have gone heretofore. The damn thing understands context and previous states and objects in a conversation.

Assuming it works as advertised (and early reports are that it does), that alone, with nothing more, is a thermonuclear holy grail that somehow gets passed by. This is the stuff of movies. It’s Steve Jobs’ shepherding in one last revolution, and the collective press and analysts are acting like Apple merely added “hello kitty” wallpaper to the phone. They’re not analyzing it as the potential game changer that it is.

Lastly, the tech press is somehow putting the blame on Apple for not managing the press’ unrealistic expectations. Look, the iPod came out in 2001 and we didn’t get the iPhone until 2007. We didn’t get the iPad until 2010. Yet, after watching Apple for decades, knowing full well that most of the time they are making incremental, yet substantial, changes, the press still wants every Apple event to be a revolution. Steve “only” had 16 revolutions during his 35+ year career; expecting 2-3 technological revolutions per year (i.e., with each Apple event) is moronic. It’s crazy to blame Apple for not accounting for the press’s morbid stupidity and not to blame the tech pundits and analysts for fomenting that unrealistic expectation.

Ultimately the tech press is bunch of cowardly posers that lick their collective fingers to see where the public breeze is blowing and end up jabbing it directly up into the technorati hipsters’ collective posterior as a gauge of merit.

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30 Comments Leave Your Own

Lee Dronick

I?ve noticed a trend with the press and analysts/pundits covering technology. They?re spectacularly stupid and suspiciously jaundiced against Apple.

Trend! More like a trait! Not all of course, but too many of them.

Yes, it wasn’t Apple that churned the iPhone 5 anticipation. They didn’t help it, well maybe they did, by not commenting on the rumors.

My wife and I will upgrade our 3Gs iPhones to the 4S, white for her and black for me. It seems to be a feeding frenzy at the ordering desk and website, I will wait until next week.

You all have a great weekend.

Dorje Sylas

I agree that the A5 is a major jump in the hardware along with the Gig of RAM vs 512MB. The A5 in the iPad 2 made a world of difference (and still does).

With the new camera (if it does low light they way they are hyping) and Siri, the A5 (can we say video mirror), and World Phone, I would personally call this the presenters phone. It a conference in your pocket.

What Siri needs next after scheduling an search query is Presentation understanding. If Siri could follow along with your presentation notes an que effects/slides as you talk… booya! Better if Siri could call up slides out if order in less structured talks. Prepare a batch of info slides for a panel discussion and let Siri pull up the ones your talking about. I know Siri is in Beta still but how much would you pay for that?

lb51

Thanks for the refreshing post. I thought everyone uses apologetic language to justify Google’s Android past, present and future products. The whole use of stat measurement is useless if the product doesn’t perform consistently to the printed claims (Android). Not to say that Apple is the only answer, but right now there is no real competitor. When an excellent alternative comes, then there is a fight for the title.

chicochaz

Couldn’t agree with you more. The problem with the news media in most of it’s forms is that “Bad” sells/gets attention/is hot and anything else is an also ran. That seems to be the nature of the beast. I’m stoked about the 4S, but then who wouldn’t be if you’re going to it from a 3G as I am! I’ve waited months since my contract was up last Feb. knowing that whatever Apple came out with as the next gen from the 4 would be awesome. I can see now that the wait has been worth it!

Peter

the iPhone 4S is a major upgrade to the iPhone 4 that equals or exceeds the differences between the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 3G, and remember, the iPhone 3GS was a spectacular success that?s still selling.

And if you only live in the Apple universe, I’m sure that’s great.  But the tech press actually looks beyond the Apple universe and, rightly, says that the hardware in this phone is nothing special.

Second, Apple is providing FREE-to-acquire and $99 sale point options for the first time with the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4.

So, in other words, Apple is selling a two year old phone for cheap!  That’s innovation for you!  Nobody’s ever done that before!

Third, Apple is launching the iPhone 4S in a zillion countries almost simultaneously (a feather in in Tim Cook?s cap).

So there’ll be fewer of a new product to go around!  What a clever idea—imagine the press that Apple will get as the iPhone is sold out of the hot new device here in the US (but there are plenty of them in India).  Woo hoo!  I know I’m excited!

Fourth, and most importantly, we have Siri, which unlike all the stupid Car Dial Number/Android Play Song/Take Crap Dictation features that the industry has been ?satisfied? with, takes voice technology to where only SciFi depictions have gone heretofore. The damn thing understands context and previous states and objects in a conversation.

While I agree with you about Siri, the press has not actually had a chance to use Siri (or at least they’re under non-disclosure until it actually ships).  So nobody knows how well it will do, short of a few demo movies released by Apple.  Call me a radical, but being somewhat skeptical is what I expect from a Free Press.

As an aside, one thing I’m curious about is if/when Apple will have an API so that developers can add Siri integration into their apps.  It would be interesting to be able to say, “I want to watch ‘The Man Who Killed the Past’” and Siri will note that I don’t have it on my video list but I do have access to it via the Crackle app as an episode of “Samurai X.”

Lee Dronick

And if you only live in the Apple universe, I?m sure that?s great.? But the tech press actually looks beyond the Apple universe and, rightly, says that the hardware in this phone is nothing special.

Most of what passes for the tech press does not look beyond their little world of specs and Mountain Dew. People who have a big world in which to bustle buy iPhones and are more than pleased with their decisions.

daemon

the press has not actually had a chance to use Siri

Actually Siri came out over a year ago as an App for the iPhone. Tom Merrit of TWiT recently talked about it on Wednesday’s Tech News Today show, aired before Steve Jobs announced passing, and talked about how he liked it, but used it only for about a week, and then didn’t use it again.

Perhaps the most telling thing to come out during that show was that the Siri App that customers bought for their iPhone 4 is going to be disabled by Apple on October 14th and only the iPhone 4S will be able to use the service afterwards.

PS John Kheit, you are a tech journalist, act with some class in your posts and refrain from insults.

Peter

People who have a big world in which to bustle buy iPhones and are more than pleased with their decisions.

Uh…looked at those market share numbers lately?

LTMacMan

Uh?looked at those market share numbers lately?

geoduck

Ran across this article fro Reuters
AT&T is saying “Extraordinary demand” and 200,000 iPhone4S’s sold in 12 hours. Not bad for a ‘flop’.

LTMacMan

Uh?looked at those market share numbers lately?

Regardless of the market share numbers…. The big number is the ‘churn’ numbers… A much higher percentage of iPhone users are buying iPhones again, as compared to android users buying an android again.  Lack of churn and customer satisfaction in the telephone business is critical.

Whit

Could not agree more.  I hope all the whinny children out there enjoy their droid phones.

Nemo

First a word to Keith:  Though I agree with much of your article, do you think that you could express yourself with a little more passion so that we know how you really feel about the tech press and about your future topics?

However I do take issue with a few points.  I agree with your assessment that the iPhone 4S will prove, contrary to the opinions of many members of the tech chattering class, to be a very successful product and that Siri may indeed prove to be a revolutionary advance in both UI and in AI functionality over what does and will exist on competing smart devices.

Apple always has to contend with errant, excessive, and often malicious expectations about its impending products, where hit-whore journalist or competitors’ shills step up the impending device for criticisms for failing to meet expectations by implying that it will cure cancer and bring worldwide peace and prosperity.  And because of Apple’s secrecy leading up to its product launches, it first opportunity to correct those errant expectations and rebut those malicious expectations is at the events where it launches its products.  It is there where Apple must explain what it is giving us and why we should care and will be delighted by it.  Apple didn’t do that on 4 October, and I think that there where a number of good reasons for Apple’s deficient performance.  To begin with Tim Cook and all of the other senior executive, who were doing presentations, were burdened by the knowledge that Steve Jobs was dying, and though they bore it bravely and did a pretty good job with their respective presentations, their emotional flatness and general lack of enthusiasm is now quite understandable.

However, the presentation suffered for another reason.  To wit:  Sire, the real show stopper, wasn’t sufficiently ready in advance so that Apple could present the production-number, third-party apps that steal the show and that, I believe, would have shown just how remarkable Siri is.  Siri, though it can do some neat stuff that will delight users, apparently wasn’t ready in time so that even a select group of developers could provide show-stopping apps.  Once Apple finishes the Siri API and publishes it for developers, we will see, I believe, some fantastic apps from Apple and its iOS developers that distinguish the iPhone 4S from all of its competing smartphones.  That is fine for the future but was too late for the 4 October “Let’s Talk iPhone” event.

The other major feature, the addition of the A5 chip to the iPhone 4S, also didn’t have the app demos which could have illustrated why it too was a big deal.  In fact, Siri and the A5 chip go together to produce the AI functionality that will set the iPhone 4S above the rest.  But again, you need the apps to demonstrate those revolutionary capabilities.  Apple just didn’t have enough of those type of apps ready so that the unlettered tech press could fully appreciate the significance of Siri and the A5 chip.

So the impossible effort of mustering the usually enthusiasm, as they knew Steve Jobs was dying, along with the absence of apps that fully demonstrated Siri’s capabilities, diminished the “Let’s Talk iPhone” event below Apple’s best performance.  I am sure that Apple’s future presentations will return to form, and that Steve will be similing as he watches the next Apple event from Heaven on his newly designed iCloud smart device.

Until Jony Ive makes his appearance at the Pearlie Gates, Steve is reduced to working with a chap named da Vinci as his lead designer.

Nemo

And Dear daemon:  No, the Siri that is coming out on the iPhone 4S has not been available to the tech press or anyone else outside of Apple or its authorized partners and agents.  What Apple put on the App Store was a much reduced version of Siri, probably just for testing a limited version of Siri in the wild and introducing the market to some limited set of Siri’s capabilities.  The real Siri requires the horsepower at least of Apple’s A5 chip, and will really hit its stride with Apple’s upcoming A6 chip.  The CEO of the Siri project, when it was at SRI, Norman Winarsky, discusses how difficult it is to get Siri to run on the current mobile CPUs: 

“Norm: I?m not familiar with Apple?s roadmap and any delays but I can say that AI takes a lot of computing power. The Siri software needs to cache data, needs to access a big dataset at wide bandwidth and needs a big processor to crunch all of the numbers. When we originally released Siri for the iPhone 3GS, we had to perform all kinds of optimizations and shortcuts to get it to work efficiently. All I can say is that it will likely run much better on a faster phone.”

See http://9to5mac.com/2011/10/03/co-founder-of-siri-assistant-is-a-world-changing-event-interview/.

So no, the tech press hasn’t had the unleashed Siri in its hands.

And finally a word about market share numbers and their context.  Android has leading market share, but that is misleading, because:  (1) Android is used on a lot of very cheap phones, where, until lately, Apple has competed, and (2) Android is also available in markets where Apple doesn’t compete.  Those two things taken together probably explain a lot of Android’s lead in market share.  Though it is Apple that is taking all of the profits.  Apple’s iPhone captures slightly more than two thirds of the profits for the entire cell phone industry, which shows you just how unprofitable Android is for all in its ecosystems except Google, the carriers, and some marketers.  Of course, the object of the game is profits and not market share. 

Apple only, I think, in the U.S. is offering its first free iPhone, the iPhone 3GS, while you’ve been able to pickup free low-end Android phones for quite some time.  Indeed, low-end Android phones have replaced the toaster as the new junk give away item when you open a new financial account or when the carriers are providing a cheap inducement to signup.  Now, I don’t think that market share from those low-end Android phones should have been counted in the market share numbers as competing against the iPhone 4, as that is comparing Bugatties to Hyundais, but the unlettered tech press do it.

Crackpothead

When correcting others for inaccuracies be sure you’ve got your facts straight. The first iPhone was called the iPhone. It was not a 3G devise. The second iteration was the iPhone 3G, ergo the iPhone 3GS could be refered to as 2.5.

Neil Anderson

Re: Siri “So nobody knows how well it will do, short of a few demo movies released by Apple.”

Forstall’s live demo dropped my jaw. The future is here, folks.

adamC

I believe this universe which these tech pundits are living in is mainly their own too and most of it is their wild imagination.

Theses are the same people which called Apple products all sort of names so would they truly be unbiased in their view?

Btw if you are an entrepreneur I believe you will deliver the best features in a product on its first introduction and leaving no follow up what so ever.

As for these far sighted tech pundits it is easier to critic than create. Are you one of them too?

daemon

So no, the tech press hasn?t had the unleashed Siri in its hands.

Nemo,

Norman Winarsky said in the very same article that he hasn’t had any access to Siri since Apple bought it. Based upon his own experience with Siri as of two years ago he said that it was much better than anything on Android currently.

Simply put Nemo, Norman Winarsky was not in a position to comment on the version of Siri that is going to be released on the iPhone 4S, nor as to it’s functionality compared to the version of Siri that was released last year. He assumes that Siri will function much better on the iPhone 4S simply because the iPhone 4S will be faster than the iPhone 4.

NY Times on Siri in February, 2010.

Android has leading market share, but that is misleading, because:  (1) Android is used on a lot of very cheap phones, where, until lately, Apple has competed,

Cause you couldn’t get the iPhone 3GS for free on contract? Am I understanding you right Nemo? You’re gonna argue that Android is “very cheap” and than go and say that the iPhone doesn’t compete on price?

Look, I understand that the iPhone 4 at 64 GB is significantly more expensive than the Galaxy S II, but the Galaxy S II is only 16 GB….

Thom

Please, for the love of God and all that is holy, find an editor to fix grammatical errors. There are too many great arguments in this article for it to be marred with bad sentence structures.

Nemo

Dear daemon:  You’re misrepresenting what I said, setting up a straw man that you knock down.  What I said and my point is that the Siri app for the iPhone 4, which was available in the App Store until 4 October 2011, isn’t equivalent to the the built-in version of Siri on the iPhone 4S.  The reasons for that is that prior to the iPhone 4S, Siri the unmodified version of Siri requires significant compromises in features and abilities to get it to run on the iPhone.  Mr. Winarsky’s comment, supra, supports and concurs with that position.  That Mr. Winarsky says that the Siri app is better than anything on Android, while true, is both damning with faint praise and does not refute that the Siri app is not a proxy for the built-in Siri capabilities of the iPhone 4S.

Mr. Winarsky, in the quote, supra, says that he doesn’t know what Apple has done with Siri on its latest hardware, but neither does anyone else outside of Apple, because the Siri app was so compromised to get it to run on iPhones priro to the iPhone 4S that it is not a good example of what Siri is likely to be able to do on the iPhone 4S, because the much more powerful processor in the iPhone 4S, for the first time on the iPhone, provides Siri with enough processing power to run in a more fully featured way.  Even so, I suspect that Siri won’t hit its stride until Apple’s A6 chip.

Pointing out that Mr. Winarsky doesn’t know anything about Siri now on the iPhone 4S does nothing to undercut the view that the prior Siri app was greatly compromised to get it to run on the iPhone 4, which is an iPhone and Siri app that Mr. Winarsky did know about when he commented, supra.

My point, therefore, stands:  Having used the Siri app on the iPhone 4 is no proxy for Siri on the iPhone 4S.

As for cheap Android phones that is a fact, and it is also a fact that, before 4 October, Apple did not compete in the market for dirty cheap Android phones.  Now carriers are offering the two year old iPhone 3GS for free on a two year contract, where it will compete against dirt cheap and second rate—second rate even when compared to top-of-the-line Android phones—Android phones that are shiny new models.  Also, the iPhone 4 is now on offer for just $99.00 with a two year contract.  We will see how they do against free but new Android junk, which are junk in the set of features that are much reduced from even a top-of-the-line Android phone, junk in the quality of construction, crappy design, except where they’ve copied the iPhone, and junk in the quality of components.

My sister, who hates tech and who refuses to pay anything for tech, got an Android phone, because it was free.  Her Android phone might have served her diminished needs well, but for the fact that my sister shares my insistence on protecting one’s privacy.  After reviewing the Google privacy agreement, she refused to get an Android account, which pretty much left her with an Android brick on the Sprint’s network.

She is considering now whether she can live with even Apple’s less intrusive privacy policy.  But, as for her free Android phone, it serves little purpose other than to make and receive calls, and I think that few other services work without a Google account, but for the most part her Android phone is a brick, though a cheap one.

John Dingler, artist

Love the author’s passionate attack on willful ignorance.

Nemo

What I really don’t understand is how Microsoft and Google let Apple take Siri from SRI without putting up a fight to the death to get it.  Perhaps, they relied too much on SRI’s plans to make versions of Siri available for other platforms, but, of course, those plans meant nothing once Apple purchased Siri, making SRI and Siri’s owners an offer that they could not refuse.

daemon

  We will see how they do against free but new Android junk, which are junk in the set of features that are much reduced from even a top-of-the-line Android phone, junk in the quality of construction, crappy design, except where they?ve copied the iPhone, and junk in the quality of components.

Nemo, you’re being overly critical of the design and contruction of Android phones. Why? Is a glass back that shatters the first time you drop it really all that great? Last weekend I dressed up in a tux and went dancing at a friend’s wedding and while we were all bouncing around on the dance floor my Galaxy S ended up on the dance floor. Do you think it got any damage whatsoever to it? Did it even have a scratch? No. Because it’s light, it’s plastic, and it’s resilient. I was three sheets to the wind, dancing with Bridesmaids (three of whom I stole from another wedding) and I didn’t have a worry in the world that my phone wouldn’t work because I had dropped it. That’s quality workmanship you can count on.

mhikl

John K, I like your spirit.

Droid trolling Apple Haters get away with everything rude and crude at TMO (it?s becoming their favoured drop-in) and then an Apple True Heart calls a spade a spade and is lipped off by Apple Holly Rollers whose fav pastime is sparing with TMO?s king Droid hole in the elusive belief that they are smarter than he and that they will eventually get the Apple hater to say uncle.

Now that ain?t smart cause it hasn?t happened once yet, and it never shall for it can?t because the true Apple hater never, that is NEVER ever, admits to being wrong. Never! Ever! Yet through spare and argue, they support and make the troll legit. It?s like a Mad Hatter tea party continuing on in nightmare posts that begin anew overlapping the old. Gotta chuckle.

This forum is getting so apologetic, so cautious, so careful and tepid in the political sense that it is now governed by a journalistic procedural that is steering itself to port side of irrelevance, an embarrassment to journalistic honour. It is refreshing to see someone who fearlessly stands up to lay it out as it is.

So, keep up the spirit, never be afraid of truth; but what the hey, your background (and words) says you know it in full suit and such is the honour of your first profession. The trend in professional journalism lost the spirit looong time ago.

Nemo

Dear mhikl:  Look up the definition of the word “irony,” and then re-read my initial comment.

Nemo

Dear daemon:  There is nothing great or even good about a glass back that shatters.  It is good, therefore, that none of Apple’s devices have that problem.  Taking the iPhone 4 for example, its translucent surfaces are not glass but are special material that is the result of Apple’s own R&D and is considered to be among the strongest of translucent materials.

And it is good to know that you can give your Galaxy S a good pounding, because after Siri appears on the iPhone 4S, you can still use it at least as a hammer.  Of course, even then, it will still probably work well enough to report you exact location to Google, as well as capture and store all of your activity on it, including Web activity, for Google’s servers, for Google to then trade to its true customers, the marketers and advertiser who insist on knowing everything about Google’s Android and other customer/users.  Now, that’s surveillance that you can count on.

daemon

Taking the iPhone 4 for example, its translucent surfaces are not glass but are special material that is the result of Apple?s own R&D and is considered to be among the strongest of translucent materials.

Nemo. Corning invented Gorilla Glass in the 1960’s. Apple didn’t have anything to do with it.

It is good, therefore, that none of Apple?s devices have that problem.

Really? I guess these were all photo shopped?

mhikl

Dear Nemo,

Think about succinct, double wrapped in brevity, and the poignancy of a post could be savoured and discussed instead of suffered as disquisition. And, Sir,  I truly mean this with the utmost respect and sincerity.

Nemo

Dear daemon:  And what fraction of the 20 plus million iPhone 4s that Apple sold are represented by those photographs.  Before you get to a level of defects that would indicate a systematic problem, you normally need about 5%.  I haven’t heard of any Apple recall, nor have I heard of my brothers in the plaintiff’s bar filing any class actions, at least not any successful ones, against an alleged defects in the iPhone 4’s translucent glass surfaces. 

And indeed, Apple selling—not merely shipped to the inventory channel but actually selling to customers—a million iPhone 4S, which have the same type of glass surface as the iPhone 4, is proof positive that, as far as customers are concerned, the photos depicted at your website, supra, present a false view of the iPhone 4’s durability, for, if it were otherwise, Apple wouldn’t have sold a million iPhone 4Ss to many of the very customers who have experience of the iPhone 4, as owners of it. 

Also, the iPhone 4’s glass surfaces are not Gorilla Glass, though I understand that it is a compound of Apple’s devising that has similar properties.  When the iPhone 4 was released, Apple’s Senior VP of Hardware Engineering, Robert Mansfield, discussed the iPhone 4’s new glass surfaces in a video, which Apple has since taken down.

And dear mhikl, you can always shorten my posts by not reading them.

Nemo

Dear daemon:  Though Mr. Mansfield’s video is no longer available, I found this reference about the glass on the iPhone 4.  See http://www.apple.com/channel/iphone/iphone-4/best-buy/design.html.  Though apparently similar to Gorilla Glass, the iPhone 4’s display is an aluminosilicate glass.  While neither Gorilla Glass or Apple’s aluminosilicate glass for the iPhone 4 are shatter proof, they, by all accounts, are a big improvement in the durability of display glass on mobile devices.

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