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You will never be surprised by a smartphone launch again
It's Christmas and under the tree are dozens of presents. Children pad down the steps, brimming with excitement and arguing over who will unwrap their presents first. They stop short, feet from the tree, and are overcome with sadness: None of the presents are wrapped. There are no surprises. There is no magic.
This is the modern world of the smartphone launch, a sad fact illustrated once again by the insanely detailed leak of everything from Google's marketing approach to images and specs for the new Pixel phones.
Whatever excitement has been building for Tuesday's big Google hardware reveal instantly evaporated.
SEE ALSO: Google’s big hardware moment is also its biggest test
If you're wondering why this keeps happening, the answers are fairly obvious.
In the tech industry leaks are nothing new, but they used to be much harder to come by.
Companies selling communication devices have long had to register their new technology with the FCC and if the product included a new invention, that got filed with the U.S. Patent Office. Those records are public, but finding out about upcoming product plans is a little like looking for a needle in a haystack. There have been, for instance, roughly a quarter of a million patent filings originating in the U.S. each year since 2010. However, with the right tools, like keyword-crawling feed-readers , gadget hounds can find clues.
Even so, images and details on actual products used to be incredibly hard to come by. When Gizmodo got its hands on an iPhone 4 weeks before the official launch and published details on it, it was a shocking scandal.
Now, there are no secrets and usually the leaks are coming straight from a company'sproduction line, a sloppy partner or, worse yet,themselves.
This most recent leak comes from a UK retailer, clearly preparing to sell the Pixel Phone from Google in the coming weeks.
Ever since smartphone companies started selling these sought after mobile devices around the world, they've essentially lost control of the narrative.
Apple hasn't surprised us in years, which is one of the reasons we're now all so desperate for 'One more thing.'
Products no longer launch in one country and then slowly roll out to others over weeks and months. They launch in 24 countries on the same day. No one wants to miss their deadline, so pages like the from UK retailerCarphone Warehouse are queued up. Unfortunately, someone had an itchy trigger finger (the page has since been removed).
Internal secrecy — telling, as Apple does, departments and co-workers only as much as they absolutely must know (and sometimes even less) — has done little to stem the flow of product info leaks.
Apple hasn't surprised us in years, which is one of the reasons we're now all so desperate for "One more thing." Apple CEO Tim Cook famously used the famous Steve Jobs presentation sendoff for thefirst time in 2014 to introduce the Apple Watch, a product we'd actually been talking aboutsince 2012.
So what, who cares?
There is a larger problem with the lack of product surprises; every news story about the official unveiling begins with "____ did exactly what we expected them to and unveiled X, Y and Z."
The lack of enthusiasm infects consumers who are equally uninspired. Perhaps only Apple is somewhat immune to this kind of consumer malaise. Everyone knew almost exactly what Apple was going to unveil last month in San Francisco, but the company stillsold out of Jet Black iPhone 7 smartphones.
The last time I remember being truly surprised at a big tech event was a year ago at the Microsoft Surface Book event. Everyone expected a Surface Pro update (andwe got one), but when Microsoft revealed the Surface Book convertible laptop and then demonstrated the Dynamic Fulcrum Hinge, many of us in the cavernous Manhattan-based U.S. Postal Office event space exchanged glances that said, "What the hell is happening?"
It was a beautiful moment. Since then I've often said that Microsoft had the benefit of hiding in plain sight. The company that brought you (and keeps bringing you) Windows is not known for its knock-your-socks-off events or product unveiling. It didn't have to apply insane levels of secrecy, because we weren't paying attention. Considering Microsoft has pulled off a similar feat with theHoloLens augmented reality headset in January of that same year, perhaps we should have been paying closer attention.
No big moments
The near impossibility of surprising at big events has led some companies to do away with them altogether.
Over the years,Amazon has held its share of product unveilings. It did so for Kindle 2, Kindle DX, the Fire tablet and the ill-fated Fire Phone.
Perhaps Amazon CEO and founderJeff Bezos, who often fronted these events, saw the diminishing returns and took note of how, the more lead time we had on the unveiling the more tidbits that leaked out from partners and anonymous sources (or maybe he was just burned by the incredibleFire Phone flame-out).
Surprise and scarcity all in one day. Bravo, Amazon.
Now, Amazon simply drops products on an unsuspecting public and media, thereby reclaiming, in a limited way, the element of surprise. The best example would be theAmazon Echo. It arrived on the Amazon website in November 2014. Simultaneously, a release appeared in our inboxes. There was no event, no briefing, no demonstration and you needed an invite to get one.
Surprise and scarcity all in one day. Bravo, Amazon.
That approach has gone so well, that Amazon has repeated it over and over again with everything from theDash buttonsto Fire TV updates and theEcho Dot.
Considering the bright spotlight of scrutiny any announced or even whispered about event shines on a company and its upcoming products, not holding launch events may be the best way forward — even if it does mean the end of big, on stage, phone or gadget surprises.
It's time for us to accept this fact: In our global economy where everything is everywhere and information posted in Bali is sure to appear in Des Moines within two beats of a pulse captured on an Apple Watch, secrets and surprise are illusory, at best.
In the meantime, companies like Samsung and Apple keep trying to surprise and captivate us at each new product launch. They hand us the new devices and we can see the re-wrapping effort. We know what's inside, but politely try to act surprised anyway.
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