The endless reports signaled an unmistakable excitement. The iPhone was cool. The iPhone was hot. The sleek design, smart software — it just worked — and premium pricing have long conferred a air of trendiness to owners, and Apple's brilliant marketing only added to the cachet.
The excitement has waned, though — at least a smidge. As John C. Dvorak notes at PC Mag, "Apple is still the leader in mobile phone technology from a number of perspectives, not the least of which is the prestige of owning an iPhone. This, of course, amounts to fashion and fashion is fickle."
That's the real risk for Apple. Whether or not demand has really slackened for the iPhone 5, as the media kicks around these latest reports, the buzz machine that benefitted Apple for so long has turned against it. Stories about weak iPhone demand – and others about how great sales of Samsung's Galaxy S line have been — could turn into self-fulfilling prophecies. If the phone is a fashion item, as Heidi Klum might say, one day you're in and the next day you're out.
Read more: The Smartphone Wars - Is Apple's Dominance Over?
Apple already faces strong competitors, with their own marketing teams dedicated to dulling the iPhone's aura. And it has already inflicted some pain on itself, mostly via the release of an inaccurate maps app but also by requiring a new "Lightning" connector that doesn't fit older Apple products — not earlier iPads, not the iPod, not your spouse's iPhone 4.
Apple gets a shot at winning back Wall Street next week, when it announces its results for the final three months of 2012. To build back its usual buzz with consumers and prove that it hasn't lost its innovative edge, it will have to impress later on this year. Crank up the iPhone 6 rumor mill.