For the past few days Apple has been processing journalists through its swanky executive offices, pressing iPhones into their hands and filling their heads with PR-approved factoids. We have been through this (disappointingly pleasant) experience ourselves, so here are a few impressions of the Apple PR machine as seen from the inside.
1. Nothing happens without a PR observer. We enjoyed our one-to-one with an Apple expert, in which we were shown the iPhone's various functions by someone who clearly knew (and cared) what they were talking about. But it wasn't really a one-to-one at all, since the poor man's every utterance was stealthily observed by a PR representative. Sure, she seemed nice, but we're convinced she was waiting to activate the ejector seat if he mentioned anything about '3G'.
2. Nobody talks about the future. For a product that's supposed to be five years ahead of its time, the iPhone is surprisingly present-focused. Higher storage capacities? We don't talk about our plans. 3G? We don't talk about our plans. Any food? Yes, there are pastries over there. Third-party apps? We don't talk about our plans.
3. Nothing ever goes wrong. Don't misunderstand us: the iPhone works like a charm. A lucky charm. But even charms go wrong occasionally, and when they do, we like people to acknowledge that fact. Every now and then the iPhone was a bit truculent and didn't do what it was supposed to do. The touchscreen - probably the best touchscreen we've ever encountered - sometimes did what all touchscreens do: ignore the user. One of the songs in the Wi-Fi music store even refused to play a sample when ordered to.
Instead of blushing, flapping or babbling (as we would have done), our expert exhibited an admirable capacity to cover at these moments of potential crisis. The Apple site loads slowly because it's graphic-heavy. That button didn't work? Hey, look at the camera! The camera's only 2Mp? We don't engage in megapixel wars. Not sure how he would have coped with the Blue Screen of Death, but we're sure it would have been slick.
4. Apple's futuristic offices make untidy journalists feel like peasants at the court of King Arthur. Which doesn't exactly lend itself to fearless investigative reporting, although we did our best. We refused to leave until we'd been told the location of the pastries.
Verdict, incidentally? The iPhone is a predictably beautiful, user-friendly objet d'art that's going to deservedly sell like hot cakes. Some aspects of the interface are brilliantly thought out - the 'expanded landing zone' that makes keys easier to hit when the iPhone knows nearby letters won't make sense, for example, or the neat way you can double-click space to insert a full stop and capitalise the next letter.
But you know all this already, don't you? And you've probably already bought one. If you haven't, we'd suggest you give up the struggle now. Apple will get you in the end, with its irresistibly well-designed products and terrifyingly slick PR department.