The insane hype around Apple's iPhone has reached Britain. The media here has lost its ability to think critically, and is pumping out extreme puffs for the gadget.

"So you could just wait, yes, of course you could," says a Guardian "review" by Anna Pickard. "You could also just buy a cheaper iPod Touch music player and pretend to talk into it instead." Elsewhere, she discusses moving to Hong Kong to get an iPhone cheaper.

No mention of the device's inability to handle 3G data, or Apple's habit of issuing "upgrades" designed to break the phones of anyone who's unlocked them. No consideration of anything really, except the supposed certainty that we all want one.

The whole thing is so shoddy, our OS editor, Manek Dubash wrote to the paper as follows:

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According to your website, the purpose of the paper's code "is, above all, to protect and foster the bond of trust between the paper and its readers, and therefore to protect the integrity of the paper and of the editorial content it carries." The review of Apple's iPhone published in the technology section today, under the heading 'The lowdown on the iPhone' does just the opposite, in my opinion.

First, a disclaimer: I'm not employed by the phone industry, nor do I have any financial axe to grind. I am a freelance technology journalist, however.

That said, I believe Pickard's review falls well short of the standards I'd expect the Guardian to live up to. It reads like a piece of advertorial that barely mentions the serious flaws in the product.

  1. The iPhone doesn't receive 3G signals - this is a high-speed wireless data system that isn't in widespread use in the US but is here in Europe. If you're going to do all the whizzy things Pickard's article promises, you need a fast connection. She doesn't mention this drawback.
  2. She doesn't mention that unlocking the phone has resulted in Apple sending out a mandatory update to the phone which turns many of the unlocked iPhones into bricks: they simply don't work at all any more. Blindly hoping that someone may someday fix the problem is whistling in the wind since Apple can just send out an update that destroys the phone again -- assuming you can get it working at all. This is vindictive stuff. No phone maker to my knowledge has ever taken this action against its users in favour of its financial relationship with O2. So much for Apple's image as the people's champion - a point Pickard misses.
  3. The phone also falls well short of the utility offered by dozens of other products which offer a far wider range of software compared to that that which exists (or is ever likely to exist) in Apple's very tightly controlled 'walled garden'.
  4. Perhaps most seriously of all, what evidence does Pickard offer that everyone wants one? Only the media hype feeding on itself has created this phenomenon. There are plenty of other phones out there that offer a much wider range of features and functions -- including equally good usability, in my opinion) for far less money. Pickard's is a piece reporting on a media phenomenon driven by a large corporation's marketing department (surely among the most ugly form of brainless journalism) masquerading as a kind-of review.

I'd hoped for better.

Manek Dubash ------

Update: The Guardian has, in fact run a long and proper review. Thanks for pointing that out. I'll put the link here since we can't links in blog comments.

We still don't see the need for this piece, though.

Another update: While we're on the subject of Apple, let's remember that the company's focus on music dates back before the iPod. Over the years. it's come out with a few classic corporate anthems.
Here are two MP3 files:

iconApple is Breaking Through

iconApple II Forever