For the past few weeks, the Internet has been aflutter with discussions purely about Apple. From the rumors and ever-heightening expectations leading up to Tim Cook's keynote to the typically short-sighted backlash spewing forth from the technology journalism sect, there has been no shortage of misperception, hyperbole, and negativity for all to revel in.
Focusing not upon the achievement and ability of a group of fallible engineers and designers, the Internet's eye has instead fallen upon the sprinkling of evidence that Apple's employees are, in fact, human.
In the lead-up to the September 12 keynote, we collectively chose to dissect the mounting heaps of leaked images and evidence. In spite of the fact that we had yet to see the device switched on, thousands upon thousands of words were spent analyzing the nature of the impending iPhone 5. Deemed to hold aesthetic similarities to its predecessors, we collectively sought to decry Apple's unfinished work. None of us knew anything of the experience posed by the presumed successor to the iPhone 4 and 4S, but, regardless of our ignorance, we stated presumptive guesswork as conclusive fact.
On September 12, following hours of frantic armchair analysis of Apple's announcements, the Internet once again devolved into a negative echo chamber of self-important dismissals and uninformed dissatisfaction. Tens, hundreds, and thousands of miles away from the only iPhone 5 units in the world, we busied our hands with masturbatory sentiments of boredom and unhappiness.
With the swathes of leaked images proven accurate, the rumor-mongering public suffered a collective gasp of accuracy. For the first time in years, our expectations had been set at precisely the correct point. Thus, rather than seeking to articulate what the iPhone 5 lacked, we instead vented our self-entitled boredom at the sight of one of the most thoughtfully engineered consumer electronics products of the past decade.
Boasting a bafflingly resilient battery, an extraordinarily fast cellular connection, a thinner and lighter frame, a taller and more colorful display, and innumerable other enhancements, the iPhone 5 iterates and improves upon its predecessors in every way possible. And yet, for all of the intentions and achievements this device hopes to fulfill, our over-saturated expectations and egocentric attitudes render such a product boring.
Focused upon cosmetics and outward-facing changes, it's not difficult to recognize the similarities of the iPhone 5 to its predecessors. But that is an altogether meaningless element of the overall equation and should not be treated as the defining factor when judging the iPhone 5. Moreover, it should never be considered the defining factor when dealing with Apple products whatsoever.
Apple is known for the marriage of beautiful hardware with competent and attractive software. Creating this exclusive atmosphere of experiential control and enjoyment, Apple has forged a hard-fought audience of discerning customers. Such success is not borne out of the mutually exclusive construction of amazing hardware or mind-blowing software, it is derived from the amalgamation of the two.
In essence, Apple's success is derived solely from the creation and definition of a superior experience to that of its competitors.
Receiving the iPhone 5 last week, my expectations had been weathered and beaten through the gauntlet of vapid journalism. Lacking review units or hands-on experience, writers sought instead to cast their link-bait headlines outward and capitalize upon the ravenous readership that follows Apple news. Keen to either ignorantly decry or blindly defend the brand, Apple-centric journalism has become a breeding ground for hyperbole and page views. In spite of all of this, upon the sight of the carefully selected artwork gracing the cover of the slate iPhone 5's box, I unabashedly slipped into a boyish state of excitement.
From the very first glance inside the box, it's easy to remember precisely why I've always come back to Apple products, and it's easy to remember precisely why Apple custom builds rotating columns for one-time use during a keynote address. Exerting granular control over all elements of the product experience — from announcement to receipt — Apple provides a product that is astoundingly differentiated from that of the surrounding industry.
The bullet points we had so sorely sought to decry from Apple's announcements have been translated into a tangible experience that exceeds the bounds of the reductive "iterative" moniker. Looking only at the specifications, measurements, and renderings of the iPhone 5, it's easy to force oneself into disappointment. But, upon hefting the device from hand to hand, seeing the improved color spectrum, and watching as once-slow apps now devour digital content, it's virtually impossible to see the iPhone 5 as anything less than an amazing successor to the iPhone line.
The apps may be the same and the screen real estate may only be marginally greater, but the entirety of the experience posed by the iPhone 5 is truly remarkable to behold. For immaterial reasons, apps feel better, colors appear viscerally brighter, and the phone feels evolutionarily leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessors. Renderings cannot — and will not — do justice to the story Apple wishes to tell. Regardless of the hyperbole Apple may employ in its marketing, it simply cannot do justice to the experience it wishes to impart.
In the least intelligent and analytical way possible, the marriage of the iPhone 5 and iOS 6 simply feels better than anything before it.
Although certain elements of the software experience may be lacking, I cannot willfully hold Apple in any state of disdain. Call me an Apple fanboy, but Apple is trying to build something measurably new, necessary, and fundamentally better with its mapping solution. Thus, for all Apple has successfully done in the past and all it wishes to build in the future, I believe I can lend forgiveness to a company that has provided so much seamless convenience to my day-to-day life and workflow. I can overlook the rough edges of an otherwise working and attractive product in the confidence that Apple is unquestionably working tirelessly to improve some anomalous and altogether lacking features.
This year, we have seen the gradual convergence of Apple's two major software projects. That is not to say that OS X and iOS are merging, but that Apple has come to define an aggressive new software path for its future in which OS X and iOS are co-dependent. Released on a defined annual schedule, the arrival of both OS X 10.8 and iOS 6 marks the beginning of a new software era for Apple.
With iCloud now existing as the linen backdrop obscuring the complexities of both, Apple has readied itself for the evolution of its software landscape. We are on the precipice of a self-disruptive and co-operative movement within Apple, and I am extremely excited to see what the company may thereby achieve next year. From the general reaction to iOS 6 and the iPhone 5, I suspect this sentiment is shared by a great many of the technology community. But, what most seem to lack, is the excitement for the status quo.
In this self-entitled environment in which we constantly look a generation ahead of ourselves, we've gained a sad propensity toward petulance and dissatisfaction. We can no longer wait for the fruits of rapid innovation, instead we must second guess it.
With Apple, however, the most important lesson I've learned is that its products are elements of a story that is solely Apple's to tell. Looking at leaked screenshots, cases, antennae, and home button housings, it is genuinely and irrefutably impossible to gain a full understanding of precisely what Apple is building for the consumer. Self-entitled claims of boredom and dissatisfaction might perhaps be palatable once the end-user has had a chance to use the device, but the premature judgment of an experiential product is unquestionably an endeavor in pointlessness.
The iPhone 5, regardless of the vapid negativity perpetually nattered by the media, is a product of astounding technical and experiential achievement. Iterating upon one of the most attractive, robust, and aspirational devices of the past decade, the iPhone 5 manages — somewhat amazingly — to deliver an altogether new experience to even the most seasoned of iPhone users.
The screen feels much larger and more information dense, and yet it is not unwieldy in the hand. The colors are a delight to behold. The software is quick, confident, and robust. The aluminum and glass skin is jarringly sleek and light. The earphones, included freely within the thoughtful packaging, are a revelation for the long-standing user of the typical Apple freebies. And the LTE connection renders once heavy-footed apps as agile, lightweight experiences.
Perhaps iOS 6 is in need of some work and perhaps Jelly Bean has somewhat eclipsed portions of iOS' polish, but the Android ecosystem lacks a hardware counterpart capable of producing such a seamless and well-considered end-to-end experience. Regardless of the "boredom" feigned by the press and the various "-gate" problems recognized in the past week or two, the iPhone 5 married with iOS 6 provides for an experience that is the envy of the entirety of the technology industry. Perhaps I could be more productive in Android 4.1, but I certainly could not be as happy as I am with the iPhone 5.
The story Apple is telling is not for the self-important technology journalist or the anal specification-driven onlooker, it is a story for the unknowing end-user. Picking up an iPhone 5, even the most familiar of users will be delighted by the experience they are tendered. Perhaps most importantly, however, such a user will not quite know precisely why the experience is so different.
The touch of iterative care that prompts groans in the technology circle translates into an immaterial sentiment of experiential joy and pleasure for the average person. For all of the derision Apple receives for its use of hyperbole in its marketing materials, therein lies the "magic" of Apple's work. Beyond the ill-informed cries of boredom, the end-user is greeted with an experience that is altogether better than before.
That is Apple's story, and, in spite of the petulance and impatience of the technology press, it is solely Apple's story to tell now and, indeed, for years to come.