Context is everything. Ad-man Martin Lindstrom published research this week claiming the sound of children laughing is the most “powerful”, “affecting” and “reassuring” sound in the world. But if you’re alone in an abandoned Victorian mental asylum, at night, with no torch, dizzy from an unexplained head wound... Different story, believe me.
Such is the case with Apple’s new iPhone (the sound of an iPhone vibrating, incidentally, came third in the poll, trailing rather tragically behind the Intel “chime”). The iPhone 4 was an incredible feat of smartphone engineering; the bar against which every other handset is measured. The 4S is better; faster, longer battery life, more powerful camera.
But it’s not enough. People want more; they want to be amazed. The new iPhone should have should have been mounted inside the belly of a live snake and programmed to sing happy birthday to you at random intervals throughout the day. It should have been the size and shape of a thimble, so you could wear one on each finger (and use the new multi-onanist feature to conference call yourself). It should have ditched its battery altogether and been powered only by its owner’s belief in the magic of Apple, much like the fairies in Peter Pan.
Instead Apple pinned its hopes on its new Siri voice recognition software. Where is the nearest Greek restaurant? How do I get home? Siri knows. She will even organise your calendar, send your messages and type your emails for you. The possibilities for hilarious mistakes are endless: “Siri, send [insert explicit message] to my girlfriend.” “Message sent to your wife.” “No Siri, not my wife. Damn you Siri.” “Message ‘damn you’ Sent to your wife.”
Despite the initial reaction, it’s a tedious inevitability the 4S will break more sales records. People will buy it because, as Lindstrom found, people love the iPhone in the same way they love their children. Probably more. During Tim Cook’s speech he said 6m people have downloaded the new Mac operating system. I misheard him and wrote down 6bn. It took me a few seconds to realise the mistake. “iOS Lion has 6bn downloads you say? Everyone on the planet is using it now? That sounds plausible, I suppose.”