Let the smartphone carnival barking begin

Smartphone Carnival Barking

"Hey, you! Have you seen what we've got over here? You won't believe your eyes..."

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I couldn't help but laugh when I looked at Google News earlier.

Right there, smack in the middle of the Tech section, was a cluster of stories about alleged new elements of upcoming Android phones. The theme was an apparent marquee feature we'll be hearing about with this year's flagship devices -- a display that, in some form or another, remains on so you can always get pertinent info at a glance.

Behold:

Samsung Galaxy S7 Always On Display

Oh, neat: So the Galaxy S7 might deliver the innovation of an always-on smartphone screen? Well, I'll be! That's darn tootin', as the hip farmers of the 1800s might say.

But hang on a sec: What do I spy with my little eye, just one mere headline down in the same cluster? Right under the info about Samsung's 2016 smartphone innovation? Hmm...

LG G5 Always On Display

Oof.

Wait, though -- you know what? This all seems strangely familiar. Like, familiar in a "Hoppin' hog heads, Harry, I sure feel like I've seen this before!" sort of way.

(Sorry -- I really don't know why I'm stuck on the old-timey farmer thing today.)

Ahem: Okay, Google, insert an image here that'll finish my thought...

Moto X - Moto Display

Ah -- yup. There it is.

And that's our latest official sign that we're at the start of the smartphone carnival season. That means, of course, that the rules of reality no longer apply. Just as a carnival barker relies on loud volume and a dose of reality distortion to grab your attention, these smartphone-sellin' showmen are gearing up to say and do whatever it takes to make their wares look like the coolest, flashiest, must-have-iest gadgets around.

Steve Jobs arguably pioneered (or at least perfected) the use of a reality distortion field in the realm of mobile tech marketing. Regardless of what you thought about the man or his work, the guy was a freakin' genius at making every single product sound -- to borrow a phrase -- magical and revolutionary. That legacy lives on today, both in the way Apple's products are presented and perceived and in the way other tech companies try to treat their own launch "events" (because when everything is an "event," nothing's ever ordinary -- right?).

Look, I don't want to be the curmudgeonly grouch at the circus. (Okay, maybe I do; that actually sounds like a fun way to spend an afternoon.) But with the start of 2016's first carnival season upon us, it's a good time to take a few minutes to breathe deeply and make sure we keep things in perspective.

As these headlines remind us, we're about to be buried in heaping piles of overheated hype -- larger-than-life excitement about things that, in the big picture of mobile technology, probably aren't that exciting. It's all too easy to slip and fall in large amounts of fresh sales-fertilizer, but remember this: When everything from every company is "new," "revolutionary," and "the most amazing ever," it's a safe bet that someone might be stretching the truth. Maybe just a little.

The thinking consumer knows that these launch events and the publicity that surrounds them are all parts of carefully constructed sales campaigns. Keep that in mind and keep your favorite grain of salt in your mitts this month, and you'll be in a much better position to see through the silliness and make purchasing decisions that actually make sense for your needs. Because much as companies may try to convince us otherwise, the mobile tech ecosystem is far larger than any one manufacturer and the products it offers.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to find a comfy Oscar costume for my afternoon adventure.

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