iPhone 4S disappointment a blow to tech journalism credibility

Knowledgeable sources reveal Apple rumours to be tech junkies’ drug of choice

October 5, 2011
Apple iPhone 4S

Let’s open with the obvious: Apple’s latest iPhone announcement – the iPhone 4S – was disappointing, and it’s not just because of the hype.

Based on their previous iPhone release pattern, we expected that Apple would have launched the next generation of the device back in June.

When it became clear that Apple’s next iPhone launch would be some months after, it was only natural for people to start expecting big things from the company.

That said, the unfulfilled rumours are probably responsible for the lion’s share of of the disappointment expressed by fans and media around the world.

What did Apple think was going to happen, though? With no announcement and no launch for several months, the rumour mill was bound to go berserk.

This wasn’t helped when credible publications started reporting that Apple was set to launch an iPhone 5, instead of saying that it could be an iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, both or neither.

One publication pegged the iPhone 5 to be a completely redesigned device with a much larger edge-to-edge display and a teardrop shape, while others simply said “radically redesigned”.

iPhone 5 - Ciccarese Design

What you thought you were getting - iPhone 5 concept by Ciccarese Design

Anonymous sources ruined forever?

In short, much of the disappointment in yesterday’s announcement from Apple is because of stories based on leaks from “industry sources”, “a reliable source”,  “people familiar with the situation”, and “two people familiar with the product.”

While there is nothing wrong with anonymous sources in this situation, the loose reporting around the latest iPhone release has all but destroyed any chance of future articles citing anonymous sources being taken seriously.

Among the rumours that proved to be incorrect were those published by Bloomberg and Wall Street Journal which said that the next iPhone would look a lot like the iPhone 4 (correct), be thinner and lighter (wrong), and will launch in September (wrong).

Such stories are quickly picked up by blogs and other technology media who publish them with authoritative phrases like “Bloomberg reports that,” or “according to Wall Street Journal.”

MyBroadband also published reports from Bloomberg and the WSJ, but if you can no longer trust the sources Bloomberg and Wall Street Journal choose to believe, then whom can you trust?

iPhone 4S

What you actually got - iPhone 4S press shot

You, dear reader, are also not entirely blameless in this. We are often asked by readers to run Apple rumour articles.

Whether this is through direct correspondence or by being rewarded with clicks, the signal we’re getting is to run Apple news whenever we can.

So while it’s certainly fun to blame “the media” for setting a bar Apple could never live up to, it’s only half of the story.

Apple’s refusal to manage expectation by not commenting on the rumours and the high demand for any news of their upcoming devices is the other half.

Of course, those of us writing naval gazing pieces like these could be forced to eat (most of) our words if Apple pushes out a “One more thing” press release in the coming weeks to announce a “radically redesigned” LTE-capable iPhone 5.

A risk I’m willing to take to implore you to resist clicking on the next iPhone 5 rumour article that gets republished on your favourite site or tweeted at you.

Show us you don’t care for all this rumour-mongering by denying us the one thing all writers crave: your attention.

Tags: Apple, Bloomberg, Headline, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, WSJ

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