The iPhone 5 and Tim Cook's genius at setting expectations

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
The iPhone 5 and Tim Cook's genius at setting expectations
Every year since it was first announced, the annual iPhone event has been either a huge amazing success, or a catastrophic disappointment. Often, the iPhone event would be both at the same time, depending on who you asked. But, this year, it was nearly impossible to have an extreme reaction one way or the other, because we knew what was coming. We can't help but wonder if this is the influence of Tim Cook, a much more even hand than Steve Jobs who was not only prone to extremes himself, but liked to provoke extremes in others. 

In the days of Steve Jobs, Apple was a company that kept secrets better than most. Apple would even build multiple prototypes of anticipated devices in order to throw off the media and make sure that each unveiling had the element of surprise to it. Of course, that also had the side-effect of causing the rumor mill to go crazy. Pundits, analysts, and fans alike would speculate to no end as to what the next iPhone would have in it. Without fail, this led to completely unreasonable expectations from many, and the much higher likelihood that no matter what Apple announced, it would be viewed as something of a disappointment to those who pay attention to these things. That was exactly our reaction to last year's iPhone 4S announcement, but this year was different.

The Tim Cook way 

This year, either by accident, or by design, Apple was not as locked down on its secrets as it has been in the past. In fact, there were almost no surprises in today's announcement. We saw leak after leak of iPhone components, cases, and even full builds of the new handset. We knew as far back as last year that the device would have a single chip for the worldwide 4G/LTE. We have known since June that the announcement and release would come in September. We knew everything from the details of the display, the size of the new USB connector cable, and even the look of the new EarPods

Tim Cook had a pretty easy job ahead of him, because he managed our expectations perfectly, and we all knew what was coming. If you liked it or didn't, you already made that judgement a long time ago, so today's announcement wasn't going to cause a big stir one way or the other. And, we're willing to bet that was exactly what Tim Cook wanted. Keep in mind that last year, the rumors got so out of hand, and the overall sentiment was so disappointed after the iPhone 4S reveal that Apple's stock took a plunge. Tim Cook didn't want a repeat of that, and he knows that the sales of the iPhone alone should be enough to lift the stock, so he kept control of the rumor mill this time around. As a result, Apple's stock stayed relatively steady before jumping up over 9 points to close the day today. 

As you may have noticed, many of the "leaks" that turned out to be true came from Steve Jobs' favorite partner, The Wall Street Journal. We've mentioned it before, but WSJ has always been the go-to for Apple's thinly veiled press releases. It's a mutually beneficial arrangement of course, WSJ gets a scoop, and Apple gets its name in the news whenever it wants. Many times, we've seen a "leak" come out just as a competitor has a big announcement, but beyond that Cook has been using it not just to generate buzz, and undermine competitors, but to control the rumor mill. 


We've known for a long time that Tim Cook is a more level-headed leader than Steve Jobs, and it seems that Cook may want to extend that out. This year's iPhone rumor mill didn't have too much crazy speculation. We knew early on that the more dynamic designs weren't in the cards for the iPhone 5. We knew  not to expect NFC. We saw iOS 6 months ago, so we knew what software improvements existed and those that didn't. 

There will always be people who want more and expect more, but at the end of the day Apple has announced the device that we expected. It's bigger, faster, thinner, and lighter, and it has some new software features. It's no more revolutionary than the yearly iterations from any other company, and we shouldn't have expected anything more. 

The most widely parroted complaint about this year's iPhone is that it is "what Apple should have released last year". But, that argument is more of a backhanded compliment, and more of a dig at the iPhone 4S than it is at the iPhone 5. The iPhone 5 is expected to be "up to 2x faster" than the iPhone 4S, which is a solid upgrade. If you're obsessed with spec numbers, Apple has never really marketed towards you anyway, and has always kept their talk to how the device performs relative to the last model. If you didn't like the iPhone before, the iPhone 5 isn't going to do anything to change your mind, but if you like the iPhone, this is a solid upgrade to keep you happy. And, it's all thanks to Tim Cook managing expectations rather than allowing speculation to rule the day. 

Related phones

iPhone 5
  • Display 4.0" 640 x 1136 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP / 1.2 MP front
  • Processor Apple A6, Dual-core, 1300 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB
  • Battery 1440 mAh(8h 3G talk time)



2. eman99

Posts: 409; Member since: Aug 03, 2010

really !!! setting what expectations???? apple is playing catch up to all these other devices apple is not concened for the mass opinion. the rest of us want specs, larger screens, faster pocessors, and multiply ui's

3. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

I don't know who "the rest of us" refers to, but the iPhone has a larger screen and faster processor. Try not to confuse your opinion with everyone's opinion. There are a lot of people in the world.

10. gallitoking

Posts: 4721; Member since: May 17, 2011

thank you Michael..

45. voxmarc

Posts: 336; Member since: Aug 22, 2012

hey you love iPhone?please answer so everybody knows and everyone will be much careful nextime in bashing apple you?...yeah it shows...iPhoneArena.

51. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

I'm pretty sure everyone around here already knows that I'm an Android user, and I would never buy an iPhone for myself. Of course, my personal opinion doesn't change the fact that a lot of people in the world love iOS products. My wife and my mother love their iPads, but I'm happy with my Nexus 7.

52. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

lol. if you say anything negative about apple, you get blathering trolls screaming at ya. If ya say anything positive about apple you get blathering trolls screaming at ya. :)

53. ayephoner

Posts: 858; Member since: Jun 09, 2009

this is pretty true. probably exactly why PA covers it so thoroughly. every comment, every page visit is $$$ in the bank. good for them.

46. Mittal

Posts: 494; Member since: Dec 14, 2011

Have to agree with that! A big chunk of the population who buy the iPhone to get a great overall experience package in a phone rather than to satisfy their geeky needs probably dont even frequent these tech sites. So the opinions reflected here in this forum is hardly much conclusive about the latest iPhone

5. hosker unregistered

I just remember...what happen to the "ipad mini"? Are they having another event announcing it?

23. JC557

Posts: 1918; Member since: Dec 07, 2011

That's what I've been reading so far. Some say the announcment is a month or two away.

6. Connie.Linghus

Posts: 32; Member since: Aug 14, 2012

.......And, delivering disappointments.

12. Cosmo

Posts: 32; Member since: May 03, 2012

iPhone 5 is THE BEST phone in the market right now.. :D Now we know Sammy will be producing elongated screens for their next Galaxy S4! HA~!

15. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

I do hope that was intended as a sarcastic pro-Samsung comment.

47. Mittal

Posts: 494; Member since: Dec 14, 2011

ya i think thats it

16. Peter27

Posts: 233; Member since: Jul 13, 2012

I do agree with you Michael: "It's no more revolutionary than the yearly iterations from any other company" But i am sick of their advertising and promotion. They know how to brainwash. When I watched the promotional video of iPhone 5 it made me feel like the iPhone 5 is really special because they did so much work behind it. They know how to play on your feelings and make it always sound like the iPhone is from different world. They should stop doing phones and concentrate on advertising. I am sure they can sell even a dead cat.

25. EclipseGSX

Posts: 1773; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

I literally LOL'd at the dead cat comment. My boss just gave me the "get back to work" glare. Well done sir.

26. Peter27

Posts: 233; Member since: Jul 13, 2012

I am sorry to put you in trouble at your work. That was not my intention. Thank you for your reply. positive replies to my comments always makes me feel good.

17. alex13amaya

Posts: 4; Member since: Sep 12, 2012

the reason all these things leaked was because they wanted to lower the blow of dissapointment plain and simple, they knew they had nothing of innovation just an upgrade of the 4S, it was just a way to lower expectations so stop lying to yourself. just because you like Apple doesn't mean you have to believe all their BS

20. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

This is not just an "update to the 4S" though. No, it's not a dramatic redesign, but at least they increased the screen size significantly, added LTE and upgraded the processor. As Michael said, this is the iPhone we hoped for last year but got the 4S instead.

44. alex13amaya

Posts: 4; Member since: Sep 12, 2012

"increased the screen size significantly"? by .5 mm come on!! and yes you are right, this is the phone people expected last year, all these "new features" are a year outdated on Android but to each his own I guess.

27. loken

Posts: 462; Member since: May 09, 2012

Comming UP : Goophone lawsuit

29. ncv144

Posts: 126; Member since: May 04, 2012

this should have been the iphone 4, not 4s, not 5, the 4!!!

33. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

I liked it when they placed emphasis on the amount of apps that apple has in their app, and yet over 200k of them have never been downloaded.

34. XiphiasGladius

Posts: 813; Member since: Aug 21, 2011

I get michael's point, genius indeed, but it's still saddening to see the almighty iPhone as of right now is the one playing catch-up to other Flagship phones.

36. JunkCreek

Posts: 407; Member since: Jul 13, 2012


40. JunkCreek

Posts: 407; Member since: Jul 13, 2012

So, the surprise from iPhone 5 is true: The Surprise is THERE IS NO SUPRISES AT ALL.

41. bucky

Posts: 3776; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

Looks like a solid upgrade to me. Not quite sure what others were expecting. Great camera, great screen, fast, smooth, great battery, great AppStore, great ecosystem, great sound quality, great customer care, great software support, actually fits in one hand...what's there to bitch about? It's nice to see a top notch phone not blowing up to tablet size. I had the intl sgs3 and it's a great phone but who the hell can take it seriously pressed up against the ENTIRE side of your face and requires two hands to use (I'm a 6'2 slavic dude too!)

43. voxmarc

Posts: 336; Member since: Aug 22, 2012

you must have a tiny hand.

48. bucky

Posts: 3776; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

I'd love to see you use the phone with one hand.

42. voxmarc

Posts: 336; Member since: Aug 22, 2012

Not even near the S3 when it comes to specs and innovations....

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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