When Android product launches go too far

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Phone launches are glittery, overblown showpieces. And we, the smartphone devotees, need to be critical of the hype they build. Let's take a look at how these product launches got out of hand and how we can see them for what they really are.

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Can too much hype result in crash landings? The evidence is inconclusive. / © Spigen

None of us are entirely immune to it; in varying ways and degrees, hype seeps into all our brains and makes us consider things differently. And with superlative adjectives piling up in press releases the world over, it's becoming harder to ignore the negative impact that hyperbole is having on the human populace.

Smartphone launches are intended, more so than ever, to shock, amaze and awe people into submission, and it's not helping anyone except for those who have the most money to spend on glitzy events.

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Big, bright, and stupid: launch events. / © ANDROIDPIT

Forget the Anthropocene; we're living in the Hyperbolecene. The world is being detrimentally affected by vast amounts of hyperbole, pouring into the atmosphere like so much hot gas.

In this thesis, I propose that the Hyperbolocene began in 2007, with a certain keynote speech. Smartphones have changed the world, but with what impact on the rate of hyperbole being pumped into the atmosphere? The cost, in my opinion, is enormous.

Where in the beginning smartphones were touted, quite rightly, as world-changing, now they've lost that edge and are looking for new ways to maintain their rates of hyperbole production.

The months preceding a big smartphone launch are littered with rumors about specs and features. The Galaxy S7 was to have a 20 MP camera and Force Touch technology. The Note 6 will have 6 GB of RAM and be a laptop, too.

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The latest rumors suggest the Note 6 will actually be an interstellar spacecraft. / © Patently Mobile

But rumors are meant to be slightly spectacular and speculative and are naturally regarded with skepticism. The manufacturers themselves, however, are keener than ever to stoke the fires of hype, producing enough hyperbole to raze a city.

At a recent launch event here in Berlin, HTC sat us down in a dimly lit room and blasted choral chants at us as images of lasers and its new HTC 10, shaking under the sheer force of its BoomSound speakers, flashed and glanced across the screen. In the closing moments, a trio of 10s emerged out of the darkness, reflective and brilliant, a triumvirate for a brave new age.

We're bombarded with empty slogans and meaningless claims: "Rethink what a phone can do"; and my favorite: "Our engineers are so obsessed with battery life we've turned it into a science", as though before the HTC 10, battery life were improved through an alchemical blend of magic and roasted unicorn droppings.

Huawei just launched its new flagship, the Huawei P9, in London earlier this month. And guess who was there. None other than Superman.

And at the S7 launch in Barcelona a couple of months ago, when the audience removed their Gear VR headsets, Mark Zuckerberg had appeared onstage, like a billionaire with a penchant for party tricks, ready to give a speech on the bright future of smartphones and VR.

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Zuckerberg, an apparition, on stage in Barcelona. / © ANDROIDPIT

Of course, all of this is marketing, intended to raise the profile of a phone and get people's attention. And it works. But the double-edged nature of the hype-sword is that those paying close attention will feel let down when it turns out the HTC 10 has distinctly average battery life, and the Samsung Galaxy S7 is actually just an extremely good phone, but definitely still a phone, doing phone things. And we shouldn't have to feel let down. The S7 is great, beautiful, triumphant. Why try assure us of even more?

One of the few companies that doesn't take this angle is LG, who, with the G5, instead opted for a more playful tone, touting the device's uniqueness rather than its reality-bending specs, even though it's just as powerful as the S7. The approach was refreshing and intriguing, adding a layer of style and grace to the product, rather than selling it as a the most insane thing that you've ever been relentlessly beaten over the head with.

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LG maintained a playful, irreverent tone with the G5 campaign. / © ANDROIDPIT

The thinking is that all hype is good hype. Because people have short memories, in a few months we won't remember that the phone doesn't do half the absurd things that were claimed to attract peoples' attention: the processor doesn't operate faster than light, and the RAM doesn't mean I can do 748 things at once with no lag. 

The only way to combat the Army of Hype is to keep our skeptic hats aligned at all times, to measure the way the rafter-shaking influences our thinking, and, most of all, remember the promises we were made and hold manufacturers accountable.

Do you think the hype train is in danger of derailing, or is it doing better than ever? Leave a comment and let me know.

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  • Alex Apr 23, 2016 Link to comment

    Whenever An Android Phone is meant to be released ,it all starts with the rumors ,I heard rumors about the LG G5 long time ago and has written articles about it in my sites and the Phone got released up pretty late and I don't know more than 90 % of the rumors that come through are proven true and Its good to release Phones late because there is so much of competition going around.

  • Mark G. Apr 23, 2016 Link to comment

    If you allow yourself to be influenced by such marketing gimmicks then you only have yourself to blame.

    When I watch the Samsung S7 launch I didn't think "wow their saying it's going to revolutionise my life, the future is really here" and believe all their hype. NO I have a brain that is perfectly adequate at identifying bull & hype.

    We know that manufacturers will use every tool possible to make us buy the product. It's up to you to whether you believe it or find out more about information from reliable sources.

    These big product launches are really just for journalists, which maybe says more about journalists than it does about hype marketing.

    Peace ✌

  • Paolo Apr 22, 2016 Link to comment

    "LG, who, with the G5, instead opted for a more playful tone, touting the device's uniqueness rather than its reality-bending specs," Yeah, because despite the touted extensibility of the LG, it is simply INFERIOR to the S7 twins in important metrics! (Camera, build quality, performance)

    Also, if you think the product launches of smartphones is ridiculous, just look at Tesla and the car industry - they talk that they're revolutionaries, the Model 3 is the new Model T, they will finally democratize the Electric Car, well guess what, your Model X's are unreliable as s---, no diffrrent than established carmakers!

    The Onus is on us to be smart and informed and know what to make of the marketing of such products.

  •   31
    Deactivated Account Apr 22, 2016 Link to comment

    did anyone really believe that having Leica written on a device meant you were getting genuine Leica hardware.... lol
    a great piece of marketing and a cool looking camera..

  •   46
    Deactivated Account Apr 22, 2016 Link to comment

    Every company always hypes their products. Like he said it is marketing and it is just part of launching a product. Usually they will exaggerate the abilities, and occasionally go to far. It is just the way they create interest in what ever they are going to sell. It is not limited to the smartphone industry. You can't blame any one company since it is done by most. Look at the alternative, would you rather just wait till it comes out and depend on some biased reviewer. Some in favor because they received a free what ever or what happen with one reviewer I saw on the G5 that she was obviously really pissed they did not send her a free phone and was slamming it every she could. Personally I rather deal with the hype and make my own decision when I can put my hand on the product. I do watch reviewers but always take what they say as just their opinion not a final judgment.

  • Sergey Moraru Apr 22, 2016 Link to comment

    Very well said. No hype needed, just a set of useful things called a right tool for work and entertainment. Anything above that just looks silly.

    • Frank Apr 22, 2016 Link to comment

      Yeah, but how boring.

  • Eric Romero Apr 21, 2016 Link to comment

    That looks right. =P

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