Dun­can Bell is an Ap­ple fan…

…but with phones now over £1,000, it’s clear the brand doesn’t love him back

T3 - - Hype -

This month saw the launch of some­thing truly mo­men­tous. Some­thing ter­ri­fy­ingly ex­pen­sive, ad­mit­tedly, but also pal­pa­bly, thrillingly A quan­tum leap for­ward from a brand with a long, proud his­tory of in­no­va­tion.

That was Miele’s Dia­log oven, a tri­umph of Teu­tonic engineering that cooks with ‘mag­netic waves’ and will rev­o­lu­tionise how we pre­pare food… once it costs less than eight grand, and we’ve all read the man­ual.

Ap­ple? Oh, they put out a nice phone that costs £800 and a re­ally nice phone that costs a grand.

One thing the two launches had in com­mon was a very the­atri­cal launch event. You can’t put out any­thing new and ex­pen­sive th­ese days without em­ploy­ing an elab­o­rate mix of West End mu­si­cal-grade light­ing and FX, OLED screens the size of Wind­sor Cas­tle and some but­tock clench­ingly awk­ward ‘ban­ter’ be­tween hosts who would re­ally rather not be do­ing this.

No busi­ness…

I’ve been watch­ing Ap­ple’s iPhone events since the first one, and ev­ery year I go away think­ing, “Well that was ridicu­lously packed with hy­per­bole and faintly out­ra­geous claims” …and then I usu­ally go and buy the phone any­way.

This year’s one, on Septem­ber 12, seemed par­tic­u­larly mad. There was gen­uine emo­tion at the start as Tim Cook rem­i­nisced mov­ingly about Steve Jobs, but after that it tipped over into a strange mix of science and feel­ings – all of the feels, as to­day’s young peo­ple put it – that seemed a bit like ro­bots try­ing to un­der­stand hu­man emo­tions and maybe not get­ting it.

So the Ap­ple Watch 3 wasn’t just a high-class wear­able. No, the pre­sen­ta­tion made clear, through the read­ing out of let­ters from users, that it was here to save them – and YOU – from, var­i­ously, car crashes, heart dis­ease and other hith­erto un­di­ag­nosed med­i­cal con­di­tions, de­pres­sion and, per­haps most ter­ri­fy­ing of all, “a bit of a ‘dad body’.” Nooooo! NOT the dad bod!

Then there were the new Ap­ple TV 4K – like the Ap­ple TV but with 4K – and the iPhone 8 which, as ever, was like the last iPhone but a bit bet­ter.

The way Ap­ple presents its new prod­ucts does wind a lot of peo­ple up. You can eas­ily play iPhone Event Bingo, fill­ing up your card as speak­ers use cer­tain Ap­ple-y buzz­words.

An­gela Ahrendts, Ap­ple’s re­tail supremo, for in­stance, an­nounced that Ap­ple Stores should now be called ‘Town Squares’ and then de­liv­ered a speech that I swear to god lit­er­ally went like this: “Soul… hu­man­ise… amaz­ing… com­mit­ment… de­sign… sim­ple… beau­ti­ful.” So that was my bingo card filled, and she was the first speaker.

But al­though it’s easy to mock Ap­ple’s rather mag­i­cal, hippy-ish way of do­ing things, clearly it works. It ap­peals to peo­ple who don’t spend large chunks of their time com­ment­ing about tech on­line. You know: nor­mal, reg­u­lar, non-cyn­i­cal peo­ple.

That’s be­cause Ap­ple has long un­der­stood that selling tech isn’t about flog­ging peo­ple a bunch of mi­crochips strapped to some OLED. It’s about selling dreams and as­pi­ra­tions and ex­cite­ment and nice things and feels.

That is more im­por­tant than ever now that dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing be­tween tech prod­ucts is so very hard. As I’ve com­plained be­fore, gad­gets – and phones in par­tic­u­lar – are nearly all good, th­ese days. Is the iPhone any bet­ter than the lat­est Sam­sung or LG phone? As a pile of chips with a screen on the front? No. As a de­sir­able, sexy thing you feel un­ac­count­able loy­alty to­wards? For a lot of peo­ple, yes.

But I do worry that the strain is be­gin­ning to tell on Ap­ple’s spokes­droids. This year’s big re­veal was the iPhone X, a phone that fea­tures some very cut­ting-edge cam­era tech­nol­ogy, is an aes­thetic won­der, and also the prici­est main­stream smart­phone ever. How did Ap­ple choose to show it off? By demon­strat­ing that you could use it to mo­tion cap­ture your face, talk­ing, and map it onto a 4K-def­i­ni­tion, sen­tient turd emoji.

It al­most made me think that some­one at Ap­ple was try­ing to hint at a cer­tain ironic de­tach­ment from its lat­est and great­est hand­set. Al­most. But the defin­ing fea­ture of Ap­ple is earnest­ness and so I can only con­clude the team there gen­uinely thinks a talk­ing an­i­ma­tronic poo with your face mapped onto it is the fu­ture.

You can’t put any­thing new out th­ese days without awk­ward ‘ban­ter’ be­tween hosts

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