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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The scroll of shame is much longer, and Gawker's Ryan Tate has a much longer list of these fictions if you want to revisit the mud pit.

It gets worse: All the blogger wannabes -- you know, the folks who rewrite and even copy others' stories -- rerun these accounts, quoting each other repeatedly, building a web of deception, fiction, lies, and wishful thinking. Apple barely speaks to the press, creating an (intentional, I'm sure) fertile ground for the rumors to sprout and grow, so the company is always in the current discussion without having to actually be responsible for it.

Ironically, of all the rumors, the only ones that proved true were the obvious: the use of the A5 chip, Sprint becoming an iPhone seller, and the "world phone" capability. Of the three technical innovations, only two leaked: the use of the Siri assistant technology a week ago and the 8-megapixel camera in early September. The more-efficient radio and its increased data rate was a surprise, so there was no need for rumormongering before Labor Day.

The mainstream media these days increasingly lives and dies based on Web traffic, and these iPhone (and iPad and Android) fictions get as much of an audience as the Super Bowl. So you see the legitimate press (I include many blogs in that category) doing weekly iPhone 5 rumor roundups, a cynical attempt to gain from the gossip, while pretending not to be playing the same game as the fiction-spinners. Believe me, if you don't play that hype-and-rumors game, you feel like you're missing the gravy train -- but it's clear that these stories (how aptly named) are a disservice to the reader and the truth. InfoWorld rarely runs such rumor stories, and to do so, we have to have a strong belief it's credible enough to repeat, which is why they're so rare on our site. Worse, some major news sites -- Bloomberg News is by far the worst offender -- routinely run iPhone and iPad stories based on rumors and dubious sources without even the "we're just repeating rumors" figleaf, as if they were credible reports.

This time, the mania got nuclear, if such a metaphor can exist. And during the iPhone 4S reveal, I could hear my fellow journalists -- and the not-journalist bloggers -- mutter in our various electronic forums that the event was a letdown, boring even. Well, we let down our audiences, and ourselves, way before Apple did. Apple may have bought into the hypefest, but we ultimately created: bloggers, journalists, and readers (who create the demand, like drug addicts).

But can the rumor mill actually break its addiction? Already, just hours after the iPhone 5 nondebut, Cnet's Brooke Crothers was happily reporting more "analyst" speculation about the iPhone 5, and Techmeme was happily spreading it. There appears to be no lessons learned, at least on those fronts.

The sad thing is that the iPhone 4S is actually a nice upgrade to a great product -- but so many people have lost of sight of that given the impossible expectations that had been set for so long. Let's see if we can do better for the real iPhone 5, the iPad 3 (maybe better thought of as the iPad 2S?), and whatever else might tickle our fancy in the coming year.

This article, "The iPhone 5 letdown: We're all to blame," was originally published at Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.


Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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