Today, the Apple computer company announced the release of its new iPhone models: The iPhone 5C, in which C stands for cheap (it’s plastic), ad the iPhone 5S, in which the S stands for sensor – as in fingerprint sensor.
Apple got placement of its product release in many prominent newspapers and tech publications, but what has the reaction on the street been so far? As this photograph, taken just a few minutes ago outside the Michigan Avenue Apple store in downtown Chicago, shows, the response can be characterized with two words: ho hum. Is that not mobile enough for you? How about this: iYawn.
Not many people seem to be rushing in to the Apple store to find out more about the new iGizmos. Why?
For starters, the iPhone 5C isn’t really very inexpensive, though it will be cheaply made. There’s just a hundred dollar difference between the iPhone 5C and the iPhone 5S – and both require an expensive service contract over a long period of time. The service contract is where the real high price is. So, it’s offering people a savings of not very much money, along with the opportunity for them to carry around an iPhone that clearly looks different from the 5S model, creating the appearance of cheapness without much of the benefit.
More substantially, the new iPhone doesn’t really offer than much in terms of greater function. There’s a new operating system coming, sure, but it pretty much does what the older operating system did. It’s just got different icons, and some different instructions to learn.
Finally, the promise of security that underlies the fingerprint sensor gimmick of the iPhone 5S is just window dressing on a profoundly insecure technology. The documents leaked from the National Security Agency by whistleblower Edward Snowden show that Apple has allowed military spies direct access into its communications networks, so that agents at the NSA can view people’s iPhone data practically at will. What’s more, new documents released just over the weekend show that the iPhone is the least secure smartphone in terms of encryption.
What the engineers of the iPhone 5S have done is like slapping a fingerprint sensor lock on the front door of a house, while leaving the side door and garage doors unlocked, and a first floor window open. Intelligent people who are looking to communicate securely are not going to do it using an iPhone.
More broadly, the NSA scandal of this summer has severely diminished the enthusiasm people once felt about using mobile communications devices. Smartphones may still be a part of most people’s lives, but it’s just not as fun sharing a private connection over a mobile communications network when you know that strangers in the federal government are taking part in the special moment.