If anyone but Apple released a major new product whose most unique selling point was a new accessory plug, consumers would jump ship faster than rats on the Titanic.
But not for the iPhone 5. Analysts predict it could be the greatest selling gadget of all time, right behind the nearly identical iPhone 4S, which was nearly identical to the iPhone 4. That's three three major releases over two-and-a-half years and the most Apple lovers have to show is an inch of screen and a talking assistant that basically has no idea what you're saying. Worse, Apple didn't even build that. They bought it.
At any other company, heads would roll, at Apple they'll be rolling in money - as much as $36 billion in new sales, according to a Bloomberg analysis. But can the party really last, and at this point who's really copying whom?
Samsung already has much of what the iPhone 5 is selling. Bigger screen. Check. Lighter body. Check. Works with high-speed cellular networks. Check. As for that special new accessory plug, well that one is exclusive to Apple, who is kind enough to sell you a $29 converter for all the gadgets you bought for the old plug.
The company also proudly touted major new software innovations like turn-by-turn directions and better photo sharing with Facebook, except you can do both on other phones already.
Still Apple sounded impressed with itself at Wednesday's marketing bachanal. The one-inch the company added to the iPhone's screen? "We've worked on that for a few years," said Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president for marketing, "to come to what we think is the optimal size to give you more screen, but something that is super comfortable, easy to use and is thin and light and fits in your pocket."
Give them a few more years and one can barely imagination the innovation that's possible: an alarm clock with multiple snooze buttons; a better space bar; another accessory plug?
"Apple has never been stronger," said Apple CEO Tim Cook. Certainly true for the balance sheet, but can the same be said about the product line?
If all of this sounds like I'm an Apple hater, you've got the wrong guy. I'm just disappointed with the company I've loved since I was child. I've bought just about everything Apple's made since the Apple II Plus came out in 1979. I own two iPads, two Airbooks and a 20" iMac. I have a closet full of old iPods. And come Sept 21, I'll probably be standing on line with millions of other Americans buying an iPhone 5. Only this time, I won't really know why.
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