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

Photo: Getty
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Who will win in Stoke-on-Trent?

Labour are the favourites, but they could fall victim to a shock in the Midlands constituency.  

The resignation of Tristram Hunt as MP for Stoke-on-Central has triggered a by-election in the safe Labour seat of Stoke on Trent Central. That had Westminster speculating about the possibility of a victory for Ukip, which only intensified once Paul Nuttall, the party’s leader, was installed as the candidate.

If Nuttall’s message that the Labour Party has lost touch with its small-town and post-industrial heartlands is going to pay dividends at the ballot box, there can hardly be a better set of circumstances than this: the sitting MP has quit to take up a well-paid job in London, and although  the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs voted to block Brexit, the well-advertised divisions in that party over the vote should help Ukip.

But Labour started with a solid lead – it is always more useful to talk about percentages, not raw vote totals – of 16 points in 2015, with the two parties of the right effectively tied in second and third place. Just 33 votes separated Ukip in second from the third-placed Conservatives.

There was a possible – but narrow – path to victory for Ukip that involved swallowing up the Conservative vote, while Labour shed votes in three directions: to the Liberal Democrats, to Ukip, and to abstention.

But as I wrote at the start of the contest, Ukip were, in my view, overwritten in their chances of winning the seat. We talk a lot about Labour’s problem appealing to “aspirational” voters in Westminster, but less covered, and equally important, is Ukip’s aspiration problem.

For some people, a vote for Ukip is effectively a declaration that you live in a dump. You can have an interesting debate about whether it was particularly sympathetic of Ken Clarke to brand that party’s voters as “elderly male people who have had disappointing lives”, but that view is not just confined to pro-European Conservatives. A great number of people, in Stoke and elsewhere, who are sympathetic to Ukip’s positions on immigration, international development and the European Union also think that voting Ukip is for losers.

That always made making inroads into the Conservative vote harder than it looks. At the risk of looking very, very foolish in six days time, I found it difficult to imagine why Tory voters in Hanley would take the risk of voting Ukip. As I wrote when Nuttall announced his candidacy, the Conservatives were, in my view, a bigger threat to Labour than Ukip.

Under Theresa May, almost every move the party has made has been designed around making inroads into the Ukip vote and that part of the Labour vote that is sympathetic to Ukip. If the polls are to be believed, she’s succeeding nationally, though even on current polling, the Conservatives wouldn’t have enough to take Stoke on Trent Central.

Now Theresa May has made a visit to the constituency. Well, seeing as the government has a comfortable majority in the House of Commons, it’s not as if the Prime Minister needs to find time to visit the seat, particularly when there is another, easier battle down the road in the shape of the West Midlands mayoral election.

But one thing is certain: the Conservatives wouldn’t be sending May down if they thought that they were going to do worse than they did in 2015.

Parties can be wrong of course. The Conservatives knew that they had found a vulnerable spot in the last election as far as a Labour deal with the SNP was concerned. They thought that vulnerable spot was worth 15 to 20 seats. They gained 27 from the Liberal Democrats and a further eight from Labour.  Labour knew they would underperform public expectations and thought they’d end up with around 260 to 280 seats. They ended up with 232.

Nevertheless, Theresa May wouldn’t be coming down to Stoke if CCHQ thought that four days later, her party was going to finish fourth. And if the Conservatives don’t collapse, anyone betting on Ukip is liable to lose their shirt. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.