Apple's unrequited love
Let's get this out of the way: every new mobile device is always thinner, faster and has a better camera. Always. It's the newly minted Shapshak's First Law of Gadget Upgrades.
I've had to coin it because, on Wednesday the new iPad will be launched. It'll be thinner, faster and have a bigger camera. It might have the same higher resolution retina display as the iPhone. It might not. Apple steadfastly and resolutely never says a word. This builds hype until it reaches fever pitch, then the company sells tens of millions of whatever iDevice it launches.
It's like being in love with someone who doesn't love you back. You worship at their feet, invest yourself in loving them and they barely notice your existence. Yes, the world has a 13-year-old's lovesick crush on Apple, the Uma Thurman of consumer electronics. It's unrequited love.
This is not to say I don't like Apple products. They are things of beauty, to be sure.
There's a simplicity and elegance to them. We never knew we needed a larger, touchscreen smartphone until the iPhone came along, or the even larger screen of an iPad. Or the thousands of songs on the iPod long before both of them.
But best of all, they just work.
Steve Jobs famously said Apple doesn't do consumer research: "It's not the consumers' job to know what they want." As contrary to popular wisdom as that is, it appears it doesn't need to, given how successfully it fills a niche we never knew existed before then.
I don't mind Apple treating me like an idiot. I really don't. Because its products just work. As my genius friend Anthony said, after he finally bought an iPhone (and then an Apple everything else): "It's the only device I've ever bought that works as advertised."
It's my job to try new technology and gadgets. I get as excited as the next geek.
But what I can't abide is this pre-launch Apple mania. If e-mail is digital heroin (it's unavoidably addictive and grabs our attention no matter what) and Twitter is digital crack (it's unavoidably time-consuming and overwhelmingly addictive) then this Apple hype is like religious epiphany distilled into a shiny silver gadget. It's speaking in tongues for the digital age. Nonsense to all but the ardent believers - who now appear to be just about everyone.
Apple never releases any information, doesn't "comment on rumour or speculation" and all of the "leaks" are rumours or speculative guesses divined out of the Asian supply chain.
It's a new kind of digital Kremlinology - the Cold War science of distilling shifts in Russian politics based on trivia like who stood next to Khrushchev at the annual parade in Red Square. Now it's how many whatever-sized screen components were allegedly ordered or how much of memory manufacturer X's inventory Apple is apparently buying.
There's no way to confirm any of these details. But that doesn't stop the months of breathless, fanatical anticipation. It's gadget addiction for something that doesn't exist yet.
Still, you have to give credit where credit is due: the cleverness of what you can do with the single button of the iPhone. Or the popularisation of the touchscreen. Or that a generation of children will grow up sliding their fingers across screens to unlock that device. Autistic kids can be reached and communicate using iPads; while airline pilots can ditch several kilograms of heavy manuals.
Provided, of course, you have battery power. With bright touchscreens, iPhones (and any smartphones) have less than a day's worth of juice. Cue a few weeks of rumours about Apple changing its proprietary 30-pin adaptor for something smaller so it can cram more battery. Yawn.
Hence, Shapshak's First Law of New Apple Products: it's always thinner, faster and has a better camera. Always.