Can everyone please shut up about the iPhone 5?

Information overload.

So now we know. The Apple iPhone 4S replacement is to be called – wait for it – the iPhone 5. And this year’s must-have gadget will be lighter and thinner than the model it replaces. That was only rolled out to the usual hype and fanfare associated with Apple launches as recently as last October. Oh, and this years model also boasts a larger screen.

With an excitement one can scarcely take seriously, analysts and technology writers explain that the larger screen means that the iPhone 5 can display an extra row of app icons on its home screen. No matter that the screen of the iPhone 5 will be smaller than rival handsets already on the market from Samsung, Motorola, HTC and Nokia. As for colours, well the self-anointed most innovative company in the world has decreed that the iPhone 5 will come in a choice of two colours: black or white. This year’s model again offers Siri. Perhaps this year, this gizmo will work.

One of the few – very few – amusing aspects of anything at all to do with the current iPhone has been watching owners of the model trying to demonstrate how Siri works. Only they usually fail. If you have not experienced an iPhone owner trying to show off Siri to you, you are indeed fortunate.

With a depressing predictability, news of the iPhone launch was the most read article on the BBC website last night. It is not as if it was a quiet news day. On any normal day, one might expect the most read story to be news of the (long overdue) governmental apology related to the tragedy of Hillsborough; or the assassination in Libya; or perhaps the disciplinary action regarding the collapse of HBOS (also in the overdue category).

The BBC treatment of the iPhone launch is however relatively modest compared to the mass hysteria generated by other media outfits. “Follow live coverage here of the iPhone 5 launch” (The Guardian) is fairly typical. Not a misprint. Even The Guardian has got in on the act. Coverage in The Daily Mail is even worse – well what do you expect?

As for the tech writers, well give me strength. All media outlets religiously quite verbatim the Apple CEO’s modest summary that the Apple stores offer “the best buying experience and the best customer experience on the planet.” If for example, you live in Edinburgh, to take one random example, you can trek through to your nearest Apple Store, 50 miles away in Glasgow.

Don’t even think about living in a rural area if you want to experience the great customer experience of visiting an Apple store, unless you really want to make a day of it.Put it this way – they do not have a large network of stores.

The "new" features of the latest handset have been in the public domain for many weeks, if you can stay awake long enough and make the effort to understand the jargon. For example: "a smaller dock connector" – in real money that means your existing iPhone charger is fit for the bin if you upgrade.

These nice guys at the innovative and secretive Apple have at least made sure that their loyal customers can enjoy the great customer experience of shelling out for a new spare charger.

Call me old fashioned but I can continue to get by with my current handset (a Samsung Galaxy III since you ask) and to hang with trying out Apple’s great customer experience.

My current handset was ordered in less than five minutes via the internet. I have not a clue how many rows of apps I can fit onto the home screen of my mobile. I hope that I never have so little to do that I count the rows of apps on my mobile home screen.

I realise that as my handset is already three months old – and does not bear the Apple logo – friends and colleagues will stop by my desk to demonstrate some of the exciting features of their new handset and tell me I ought to have waited for the iPhone 5. At some point, possibly as soon as about the end of next week, I may well have to scream at some unfortunate workmate something along the lines that "it is just a naffin’ mobile". Only - I may not use the word naffin’.

Douglas Blakey works at VRL financial news.

The iPhone 5 was launched last night. Photograph, Getty Images.

Douglas Blakey is the editor of Retail Banker International

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Erdogan’s purge was too big and too organised to be a mere reaction to the failed coup

There is a specific word for the melancholy of Istanbul. The city is suffering a mighty bout of something like hüzün at the moment. 

Even at the worst of times Istanbul is a beautiful city, and the Bosphorus is a remarkable stretch of sea. Turks get very irritated if you call it a river. They are right. The Bosphorus has a life and energy that a river could never equal. Spend five minutes watching the Bosphorus and you can understand why Orhan Pamuk, Turkey’s Nobel laureate for literature, became fixated by it as he grew up, tracking the movements of the ocean-going vessels, the warships and the freighters as they steamed between Asia and Europe.

I went to an Ottoman palace on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, waiting to interview the former prime minister Ahmet Davu­toglu. He was pushed out of office two months ago by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he appeared to be too wedded to the clauses in the Turkish constitution which say that the prime minister is the head of government and the president is a ceremonial head of state. Erdogan was happy with that when he was prime minister. But now he’s president, he wants to change the constitution. If Erdogan can win the vote in parliament he will, in effect, be rubber-stamping the reality he has created since he became president. In the days since the attempted coup, no one has had any doubt about who is the power in the land.

 

City of melancholy

The view from the Ottoman palace was magnificent. Beneath a luscious, pine-shaded garden an oil tanker plied its way towards the Black Sea. Small ferries dodged across the sea lanes. It was not, I hasten to add, Davutoglu’s private residence. It had just been borrowed, for the backdrop. But it reminded a Turkish friend of something she had heard once from the AKP, Erdogan’s ruling party: that they would not rest until they were living in the apartments with balconies and gardens overlooking the Bosphorus that had always been the preserve of the secular elite they wanted to replace.

Pamuk also writes about hüzün, the melancholy that afflicts the citizens of Istanbul. It comes, he says, from the city’s history and its decline, the foghorns on the Bosphorus, from tumbledown walls that have been ruins since the fall of the Byzantine empire, unemployed men in tea houses, covered women waiting for buses that never come, pelting rain and dark evenings: the city’s whole fabric and all the lives within it. “My starting point,” Pamuk wrote, “was the emotion that a child might feel while looking through a steamy window.”

Istanbul is suffering a mighty bout of something like hüzün at the moment. In Pamuk’s work the citizens of Istanbul take a perverse pride in hüzün. No one in Istanbul, or elsewhere in Turkey, can draw comfort from what is happening now. Erdogan’s opponents wonder what kind of future they can have in his Turkey. I think I sensed it, too, in the triumphalist crowds of Erdogan supporters that have been gathering day after day since the coup was defeated.

 

Down with the generals

Erdogan’s opponents are not downcast because the coup failed; a big reason why it did was that it had no public support. Turks know way too much about the authoritarian ways of military rule to want it back. The melancholy is because Erdogan is using the coup to entrench himself even more deeply in power. The purge looks too far-reaching, too organised and too big to have been a quick reaction to the attempt on his power. Instead it seems to be a plan that was waiting to be used.

Turkey is a deeply unhappy country. It is hard to imagine now, but when the Arab uprisings happened in 2011 it seemed to be a model for the Middle East. It had elections and an economy that worked and grew. When I asked Davutoglu around that time whether there would be a new Ottoman sphere of influence for the 21st century, he smiled modestly, denied any such ambition and went on to explain that the 2011 uprisings were the true succession to the Ottoman empire. A century of European, and then American, domination was ending. It had been a false start in Middle Eastern history. Now it was back on track. The people of the region were deciding their futures, and perhaps Turkey would have a role, almost like a big brother.

Turkey’s position – straddling east and west, facing Europe and Asia – is the key to its history and its future. It could be, should be, a rock of stability in a desperately un­stable part of the world. But it isn’t, and that is a problem for all of us.

 

Contagion of war

The coup did not come out of a clear sky. Turkey was in deep crisis before the attempt was made. Part of the problem has come from Erdogan’s divisive policies. He has led the AKP to successive election victories since it first won in 2002. But the policies of his governments have not been inclusive. As long as his supporters are happy, the president seems unconcerned about the resentment and opposition he is generating on the other side of politics.

Perhaps that was inevitable. His mission, as a political Islamist, was to change the country, to end the power of secular elites, including the army, which had been dominant since Mustafa Kemal Atatürk created modern Turkey after the collapse of the Ottoman empire. And there is also the influence of chaos and war in the Middle East. Turkey has borders with Iraq and Syria, and is deeply involved in their wars. The borders do not stop the contagion of violence. Hundreds of people have died in the past year in bomb attacks in Turkish cities, some carried out by the jihadists of so-called Islamic State, and some sent by Kurdish separatists working under the PKK.

It is a horrible mix. Erdogan might be able to deal with it better if he had used the attempted coup to try to unite Turkey. All the parliamentary parties condemned it. But instead, he has turned the power of the state against his opponents. More rough times lie ahead.

Jeremy Bowen is the BBC’s Middle East editor. He tweets @bowenbbc

This article first appeared in the 28 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Summer Double Issue