Late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel conducted a remarkable experiment this past week. He sent cameras out to record people testing the new iPhone 5, which of course is not available yet. The lab rats were handed last year’s model.
“Oh, it’s way better,” one man said, holding the iPhone 4S. “Yeah, it’s nice. That’s definitely, noticeably better.”
Another mark: “It seems a little bit faster.”
“Oh my God, it feels a lot lighter,” according to a different reviewer. “Just a lot more higher quality.”
Yet another: “Colors are brighter.”
The joke was obvious: People can’t tell the difference between a new iPhone and an old iPhone. But underlying the gag is a more serious message about where we stand in the digital age, particularly with the era’s marquee device, which has become an appendage for hundreds of millions of people.
Farewell, innovation. Hello, iteration.
In the olden days of gadgetry — by which I mean 2007, when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone — differences between devices from year to year could be so dramatic that buyers would often skip generations, hopeful that the next one would offer an even greater technological leap. Perhaps version 2.0 or 3.0 would remotely take out the trash.