At Tuesday’s Apple event, there was no iPhone 5, nor was there Steve Jobs. But there was an avalanche of coverage on blogs, news websites, and Twitter—and the unveiling of a faster version of the iPhone.
The iPhone 4S, unveiled
at a hotly anticipated press conference at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., looks identical to its predecessor but has several upgrades, including a faster processor, longer battery life, 8-megapixel camera, and new voice-recognition software. Tim Cook, the company’s new CEO, led the event.
Pre-orders for the 4S start this Friday, according to Engadget
. It will be available Oct 14.
The event brought a somewhat mixed reaction. A number of Twitter users expressed their disappointment. One person tweeted
"Oh @apple I wanted a new cup but you just sent a tired waitress to 'warm ya up hon?' #letstalkiphone"
Apple’s stock price was down slightly
after the announcement.
Still, the event sparked a flurry of conversation among social media users and bloggers. Before the event started, the hashtag #letstalkiphone
, became a trending topic on Twitter, as thousands of tweets about the topic poured in. By the time it was all over, #iphone4S
also reached Twitter’s trending topic list.
Moments after Cook took the stage at 1 pm Eastern Time, a Twitter user said
“Keeping up with the #letstalkiphone coverage… practically peeing myself and having a heart attack at the same time.”
Could your company spark that kind of excitement, particularly if—like Apple—your company didn’t have an official Twitter feed?
From a PR and marketing perspective, Apple is a unique beast. The company regularly ranks as the most mentioned brand on social media but has no official accounts of its own. (It does have feeds for separate products, such as the recently launched account for its iBookstore
This approach flouts the advice of a cadre of social media ninjas and seems counterintuitive given Apple’s cultural penchant for controlling everything in its orbit.
However, its reliance on an existing community of rabid fans and press to spread its news demonstrates a high degree of sophistication and self-knowledge. Apple fans—and the tech media community more broadly—are always hungry for news from the company. The firm has done an amazing job of understanding this and bringing a sense of theater to its announcements, starting with the buildup.
Although it could be argued that rumor of a new iPhone surfaced the day after the iPhone 4 hit Apple stores, the rumor mill actually started churning over the summer. A clearer picture emerged a couple of weeks ago
when Apple sources told the All Things Digital
blog that Cook would make a big announcement on Oct. 4. That announcement, they said, would be the new iPhone.
On Monday, a new rumor appeared
on an Apple fan site suggesting that Cook wouldn’t unveil an iPhone 5, but instead an upgraded iPhone 4.
Like a movie star in Hollywood’s Golden Era, Apple has always understood the value of being absolutely in tune with, but slightly distant from, its fans. In short, it firmly “gets” the logic of not allowing fans to see everything all the time. This mystique and the mystery Apple has cultivated are a marvel. It has gotten to the point where people lap up any words that fall from Fortress Apple.
As a result, Apple has created a perfect storm from a PR perspective. On one hand, it has a rabid fan base and understands that leaving this group alone makes it the most effective peer-to-peer marketing machine on Earth.
On the other hand, the passion of that fan base, the growing ubiquity of Apple’s products, and its mastery of stage management, make it impossible for the tech press to ignore any move it might even make.
All told, today’s iPhone 4S announcement was not a big deal. Had it been the purportedly teardrop shaped iPhone 5 we might not be saying this. However, everything about the production generated a mad amount of earned media for Apple.
Imagine what will happen when iPhone 5 finally does surface.