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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I dined behind the Houses of Parliament in my sexually connected foursome

My wife and I would sometimes dine out with another couple. We did not always check the significance of the date. 

I am self-employed and find that working from home, setting your own schedule, the days generally blur into each other, with weekends holding no significance, and public holidays, when those who are employed in factories, offices or shops get time off, meaning nothing. I am often surprised to go out and find the streets empty of traffic because it is some national day of observance, such as Christmas, that I wasn’t aware of. I find myself puzzled as to why the shops are suddenly full of Easter eggs or pancake batter.

Growing up in a Communist household, we had a distinct dislike for this kind of manufactured marketing opportunity anyway. I remember the time my mother tried to make me feel guilty because I’d done nothing for her on Mother’s Day and I pointed out that it was she who had told me that Mother’s Day was a cynical creation of the greetings card monopolies and the floral industrial complex.

Valentine’s Day is one of those I never see coming. It’s the one day of the year when even the worst restaurants are completely booked out by couples attempting to enjoy a romantic evening. Even those old-fashioned cafés you’ll find still lurking behind railway stations and serving spaghetti with bread and butter will tell you there’s a waiting list if you leave it late to reserve a table.

In the late 1980s my wife and I would sometimes dine out with another couple, he a writer and she a TV producer. One particular place we liked was a restaurant attached to a 1930s block of flats, near the Houses of Parliament, where the endless corridors were lined with blank doors, behind which you sensed awful things happened. The steel dining room dotted with potted palm trees overlooked a swimming pool, and this seemed terribly sophisticated to us even if it meant all your overpriced food had a vague taste of chlorine.

The four of us booked to eat there on 14 February, not realising the significance of the date. We found at every other table there was a single couple, either staring adoringly into each other’s eyes or squabbling.

As we sat down I noticed we were getting strange looks from our fellow diners. Some were sort of knowing, prompting smiles and winks; others seemed more outraged. The staff, too, were either simpering or frosty. After a while we realised what was going on: it was Valentine’s Day! All the other customers had assumed that we were a sexually connected foursome who had decided to celebrate our innovative relationship by having dinner together on this special date.

For the four of us, the smirking attention set up a strange dynamic: after that night it always felt like we were saying something seedy to each other. “Do you want to get together on Sunday?” I’d say to one of them on the phone, and then find myself blushing. “I’ll see if we can fit it in,” they’d reply, and we would both giggle nervously.

Things became increasingly awkward between us, until in the end we stopped seeing them completely. 

This article first appeared in the 25 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Why Islamic State targets Britain

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