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Apple's Most Boring iPhone Event Ever


Nothing about the newest flagship smartphone truly differentiates it from any other.

"Now I'd like to talk about iPhone. A couple of you may be expecting this."

Meant as a tongue-in-cheek introduction of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) latest offering to a frothing press and public, Tim Cook's deadpan delivery was actually right on the nose considering the already familiar product he was about to show off to the world. Two products, actually.

At Tuesday's big press event, the company rolled out the iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, and iOS 7 at its headquarters in Cupertino, California, which only served to reinforce Apple's unfortunate shift from reinventing the wheel to simply reshaping it. For a fan base that has been champing at the bit through the longest drought in new hardware releases since the iPad, Apple served up very little for them to sink their teeth into.

Apple's super-secret trademark strategy that fuels speculation and hype by keeping upcoming products and features under strict lock and key is more and more turning into empty shtick. That pent-up excitement doesn't have a place to go without a satisfying reveal. And continuing to stage media spectacles that trot out music legends -- in Tuesday's event, Elvis Costello took to the stage and played a mini-set -- only to deliver lackluster launches really starts to feel like all sizzle and no steak.

Nothing about the newest flagship smartphone truly differentiates it from any other. With few exceptions, it merely pushes the needle a little further in a specs war; improving upon existing systems without pioneering novel ones. You can even imagine Costello saying to himself, "And for this I played 'Radio Soul'?"

What passes as paradigm-changing at Apple these days is, in a nutshell, an updated operating system that boosts speed and provides a longer battery life. The camera is marginally better, too.

One brand-new feature built into the iPhone 5S is the Touch ID security sensor that will replace the need for passcodes. By encrypting fingerprints, the phone will only allow the owner to unlock it; it also authorizes purchases from the iTunes, App, or iBooks stores. Of course, this technology is a retread of biometric fingerprint recognition introduced in 2011 by Motorola (NASDAQ:GOOG) in its Atrix smartphone, which made such an impression on CNET that the website's review of the Atrix devoted an entire half-sentence to it.

Apple didn't do itself any favors by leaving iCloud a messy laundry pile of network computing.

Given our propensity for distraction when it come to shiny things, Apple cleverly gave the iPhone 5S a choice of metallic gold, silver, and space-gray finishes. But, really, don't we deserve a little more credit? We're not all that superficial. I, for one, will need at least a precision-crafted case made of premium leather with a soft microfiber lining in one of six colors to overlook the phone's inner shortcomings.

Meanwhile, Google's Glass put personal computing on the bridge of our noses and the Moto X anted up touchless interaction. We got wireless charging and a glove-friendly touchscreen from Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) Lumia line. And Samsung (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) paved the way for eye-tracking technology with the latest generation Galaxy phone.

By comparison, Apple calling the iPhone 5S the most forward-thinking smartphone in the world is such a distant cry from reality, it makes you wonder if it's another executive stab at sarcasm.

Wall Street isn't buying the smoke-and-mirrors show either. By the end of trading on Tuesday, Apple's stock had dropped 10.74 points (2.17%).

If you think Apple's latest unveiling deserves all the company's self-endowed praise and superlatives, you've truly unlocked the secret to satisfaction as an iPhone consumer: lowered expectations.

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