The iPhone 5 letdown: We're all to blame

Brazen bloggers, a fawning press, voracious fanboys, and even Apple contributed to the Oct. 4 'is that all?' moment

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Apple choked, too, in its larded presentations that lacked the entertainment value usually provided, in what seemed an attempt to hide the modesty of the announcement in a pile of presentations and videos. Instead, it drowned, feeling endless for the bulk of the two hours, then suddenly rushed at the end. Maybe we're seeing what happens when it's not the Steve Jobs show.

But the event's importance was brought to an impossible level long before the notices went out. The week before the event, the Wall Street Journal and its tech website, AllThingsD, published the basic details of the new iPhone, par for the course before every Apple "special event." Knowing that the Journal gets regular early access from the usually tight-lipped Apple, the press should have realized last week that the event was not going to be the Third Coming of the iPhone.

Instead, you had some major news sites run nearly a dozen stories yesterday morning before the event -- all in the space of a few hours. One French-speaking tweeter noted the insanity and traffic grab, giving it the hashtag #overexpose. That same tweeter tweaked InfoWorld for running two stories (both by me; one a preview and one a speculation of what might come in 2012), then later noted sardonically that we were relatively restrained compared to other sites. For me, our two posts were enough, if not more than enough given where the signs were pointing.

Fiction rules the Web
But the mania that fueled all this overreaction came first from the blogosphere. The number of ridiculous stories from sites like Boy Genius Report (which once had a high ratio of credible rumors but seems to have gotten addicted to "scoop" buzz), the various AOL properties (TechCrunch and Engadget, particularly; sister site TUAW is more circumspect), and Gizmodo -- and replayed and rehyped constantly by aggregator sites such as Techmeme -- has amazed me all year:

  • The Photoshopped fake cases "discovered" by a "source who has provided credible details in the past"
  • The alleged details revealed by a kid working in a Verizon store; Apple doesn't tell Verizon's CEO what's coming, so the guy trying to sell you more minutes doesn't know a thing
  • The iPhone Nano model being developed, as well as a bigger-screen model; one site even took the Goldilocks approach, with three sizes predicted
  • The alleged hardware details, such as a 4G radio and curved-glass design, from a line worker in some Chinese factory that probably doesn't even exist; remember all those "new case design" stories based on alleged Chinese-made iPhone 5 skins from last week?
  • The crazy comments made by writers and financial analysts; on Monday, Boy Genius Report invented a story that Sprint would get an exclusive on the new iPhone, which would be a WiMax-capable model (never mind that Sprint is abandoning WiMax for LTE), and on the same day Ticonderoga Securities financial analyst Brian White told his clients that Apple would replace the iPhone 4 with an all-aluminum unibody case like that in the MacBook lineup -- a "fact" duly reported by that bastion of truth, Fox Business News, though neither was remotely true (trust me, financial analysts are clueless about technology, so be wary of them as sources on tech issues)
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