Google's 2018 launch event was a piece of corporate theater, like so many before it, to unveil a new smartphone. I've watched and attended a lot of product launches in my time, dahlink, but this one was the least engaging for ages. Not because of the products, or the presenters, but because it lacked one key ingredient: surprise.
I'm aware of the irony, having written enough stories about unannounced products found in supply chain leaks and code discoveries. But that doesn't mean that I'm not still personally sad that there are no more moments of surprise and delight that used to be commonplace. It's not as if there's a single culprit, either, more a collection of reasons why the spark has fizzled.
For a start, everyone's a lot more switched on than they used to be, and technology has swallowed the mainstream whole. The oddities of component supply chains and Chinese manufacturing companies are now fair topics for front page coverage. And that means that it's a lot harder to hide a new device in plain sight. The Pixel 3 XL left in the back of a Lyft was papped by the driver who could spot the unreleased phone at sight. And, forgetting their moral and contractual duty to their passenger, took pictures of the damn thing anyway.
Human error, too, can be a part of the problem, because foul-ups at Google's suppliers saw handsets delivered to retailers early. Which is how Engadget was able to get serious hands-on time with a Pixel 3 XL the weekend before the phone was announced. Ever since an iPhone 4 prototype was left in a bar, everyone's on the lookout for new tech.