About that “boring” iPhone 5 launch

In case you missed the news, Apple introduced a new iPhone this week. And for its trouble, the Cupertino, Calif., company has been getting dinged by tech writers for insufficiently stunning the audience. Wired’s Mat Honan spoke for many in a post that, while complimenting the iPhone 5’s advances over the iPhone 4S, handed down a final verdict of “boring.”

But what, exactly, is a company going to do to wow spectators with its fifth incremental update to a product that debuted in the long-ago era of 2007? Short of stunts involving guys in wingsuits, it’s hard to distract an audience from the fact that the smartphone is a maturing, evolving product. Breakthrough innovations don’t come as quickly as they once did. And in some areas, such as power, they don’t seem to be happening at all.

(To any journalists tempted to critique Apple for allowing more of the iPhone 5’s details to leak: What’s wrong with you? Speaking as somebody who can’t count on getting too much attention from the company–it didn’t issue me a press pass to Tuesday’s event–that’s not a bug, that’s a feature!)

Oh, and one more thing: Since Apple didn’t spend weeks and months hyping the next iPhone’s arrival, just where might everybody have gotten the idea that this new model would represent a next level of game-changing awesomeness? Could it possibly have been the sites (most of my past and present outlets included) that have been running speculative next-iPhone posts since this spring? Think about that for a minute.

Weekly output: iPhone rumors, remote controls, Kindle Fire, the Cricket iPhone, cable boxes, IE 8, Google alternatives

All three pieces that were on an editor’s screen a week ago went online this week. See how falsely productive I look now? This week’s list includes a new site, CNNMoney. (I enjoy how my freelance situation gives me enough spare time to try to chase down new business and write for different sites and audiences.)

5/29/2012: The Next-iPhone Season Draws Near, So Read Wisely, Discovery News

As you may have read here a year ago, I think obsessing over next-iPhone rumors can be a colossal waste of time, but that doesn’t mean I can’t provide some advice about which of this year’s crop could be true and which seem transparently ridiculous. Just don’t make me write that post every week!

5/30/2012: Your Next Remote May Already Be In Your Pocket, CEA Digital Dialogue

After seeing some interesting experiments in using smartphone and tablet apps to replace remote controls at the Cable Show–which, in turn, followed some similar demos at CES–I thought it was a good time to assess this overdue experimentation in replacing the remote and warn about how it might go awry.

5/31/2012: Rethinking the Kindle Fire, six months later, CNNMoney

Back in January, I had a great conversation with an editor at CNNMoney about the lack of follow-up in tech reviews: If car magazines and sites can set aside the time to write long-term evaluations of cars, why can’t tech sites do the same for gadgets? This six-months-later look at Amazon’s Kindle Fire is the result of that chat. Please compare it to my initial writeup for Discovery–and let me know what other tech products might deserve their own extended eval.

5/31/2012: The ‘Next iPhone’ We Didn’t See Coming, Discovery News

The week’s surprise was seeing Cricket Wireless, the prepaid carrier I reviewed back in 2009 and hadn’t encountered since getting a demo of its Muve music service last spring, get the iPhone. Even more surprising: Learning that Cricket’s version of the iPhone 4S will be unlocked for international use–and then seeing that highly-relevant fact go unmentioned in other stories.

6/3/2012: Off the Grid, Still In the Box: where’s Cable TV headed?, Boing Boing

My Cable Show coverage wrapped up with my second post at Boing Boing, in which I recap some surprisingly positive developments in user interfaces and energy efficiency–and a less-enthralling lack of progress in opening up this market to outside vendors. Having enjoyed the conversation with BB readers in February, my next move after posting this will be to catch up on the feedback I missed earlier today.

6/3/2012: How long should you hang on to IE8?, USA Today

A reader asked if it was okay to keep using Internet Explorer 8 instead of IE 9; as you might expect, I don’t think that’s a great idea. (To answer the “what if you’re still on XP?” replies I’ve already received: That’s not a great idea either. That OS is well past its sell-by date, and I can’t stand to use it myself anymore.) After I endorse Google’s Chrome as a good IE alternative, I explain how to set Chrome to use non-Google search engines as its default.

Last week, I also learned from my site stats here that ABC News’ tech site syndicates these columns. So if the orange highlight atop USAT’s tech section bothers you, maybe the blue-green header at ABC will be more to your liking.