Hated By The Daily Mail

I suppose the proudest thing I own is this badge, one of a very limited collection, given to me by the warm and wonderful Phill Jupitus. Anyone who can wear it can think of themselves of flying a flag of freedom, of having been awarded a medal struck for decency, fairness, honesty and what is right and morally good.

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The Picnic

Oh my lordy lordy LORD. I have known these two weeks were coming, but it’s still a shock that they’re here already. As you might know from my #shamelesswhoring on Twitter, I have a book out this week. Tonight I am at the Royal Festival Hall, the evening being relayed live to 60 cinemas across the country. I have been splayed over newspapers and the Radio Times in various undignified poses and to top it all the Dave Channel are, bless them, having a Stephen Fry Week. Over the coming fortnight I am doing evenings in Norwich, Cambridge and Oxford. There are three live performances at the Royal Albert Hall and further events at Cheltenham and Bath to come. Throw in on top of this the usual swathe of One Show, breakfast TV interviews and suchlike and you have a savage lubeless media assault that may well bring tears to the eyes.

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Think Pink

Part One

Back from my travels. Jet-lag more or less out of my system. What a strange journey it has been. Let me tell you how it came about.

Book Fair and Opera House

It all began some months ago when my friend David Tang invited me to the Hong Kong Book Fair. He made the offer dazzlingly tempting. There is no one and nothing in Hong Kong David doesn’t know and he and his wife Lucy are legendary hosts. Nonetheless, so sunk in commitments and so guilt-laden in my work obsession am I that I strongly considered giving the event the go-by. The same week, however, I was asked by the Sydney Opera House if I might consider doing an “evening” there. I don’t really have “an evening” so I reckoned I would probably add this request too to my list of reluctant declinings-declinations-declinements.

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Beijing 22nd July 2010

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iPhone 4: a Welcome and a Warning

Welcome The hooplah that surrounds the release of a new Apple product is enough to make many otherwise calm and balanced adults froth and jigger. That some froth with excited happiness and others with outraged contempt is almost irrelevant, it is the intensity of the response that is so fascinating. For the angry frothers all are fair game for their fury – the newspapers, the blogosphere, the BBC and most certainly people like me for acting, in their eyes, as slavish Apple PR operatives. Why should these iPads and iPhones be front page news when, the frothers froth, there are plenty of other manufacturers out there making products that are as good, if not better, for less money? And isn’t there something creepy about Apple’s cultiness and the closed ecosystem of their apps and stores? The anti-Applers see pretension and folly everywhere and they want the world to know it. The enthusiastic frothers don’t really mind, they just want to get their hands on what they perceive as hugely desirable objects that make them happy. The two sides will never agree, the whole thing has become an ideological stand-off: the anti-Apple side has too much pride invested in their point of view to be able to unbend, while Apple lovers have too much money invested in their toys to back down. It is an absorbing phenomenon and one which seems to get hotter every week.

I almost always go out with an iPhone in one pocket, a BlackBerry in another and an Android device in a third. But then I am peculiar. If I had to keep only one, yes, I confess I would choose the iPhone, but I could cope happily if I were left with just a BlackBerry Bold or an HTC Desire. At least so I would have said until last week when Apple gave me an iPhone 4 to play with. For just as the frenzy of iPad launch has subsided (3 million sold in 8 weeks) it is now time for Apple haters to have a new device waved in their angry faces and time for Apple lovers to get verbally bitch-slapped for falling once more for Steve Jobs’s huckstering blandishments. iPhone 4 is here. It is only a year since many will have taken advantage of incentives to upgrade from iPhone 3G to iPhone 3GS and their deals may still be active, denying them the chance to leap to the newest phone without eye-watering financial penalties. Much as 3GS was released simultaneously with OS 3.0, so iPhone 4 arrives with iOS (as all Apple mobile device operating systems will now be designated) 4.0, which will be able to bring some, but not all of its new functions and features to older phones (but not the iPhone 2G). The phone will be available unlocked here in the United Kingdom, so your existing SIM (so long as it is cut down to the new mini-SIM shape) will work without having to jailbreak and unlock.

iPhone 4

iPhone 4 is an object of rare beauty (even when badly photographed using an iPhone 3GS). Noticeably slimmer but a trifle heavier than predecessors, its new heft only adds to the profound feeling of quality and precision that the device exudes. Sharper edged, it is girt by a stainless steel band which cleverly houses all the antennas required by a modern smartphone. Jobs himself made a comparison between iPhone 4 and a classic Leica. With this device in my hand I feel that I am holding its designer Jonathan Ive’s personal prototype, hand-machined as a proof-of-concept model. Ive is surely one of the most influential and gifted designers Britain has ever produced and iPhone 4 may well be his masterpiece.

Apple have produced, and third parties will doubtless emulate and improve, rubberised wrap-around belts called Bumpers that easily slip round the edges of the handset affording what will probably be regarded as much needed protection. They come in all kinds of colours and give the device great resilience (I saw an Apple executive gleefully hurling his bumpered iPhone 4 across the room). Bumpers may diminish the perfect lines of the profile, but it’s a compromise many will make, as the sharp edges are bound to make one a little nervous about chipping and denting.

This blog was posted in General, Guardian column and Techblog

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