Craig Henderson looks at Apple Inc: Tech icon or an iCon?

Magic marketing: Apple CEO Tim Cook has followed in the footsteps of Steve Jobs, convincing the media to give his flagship product millions of dollars of free publicity.

Magic marketing: Apple CEO Tim Cook has followed in the footsteps of Steve Jobs, convincing the media to give his flagship product millions of dollars of free publicity.

I feel sad when I see people sleeping outside a store on a city pavement for nights on end to ensure they're the first person to drop $1200 on a new phone.

Not just any phone; humans only willingly bivouac among the bus fumes and durry butts so they can score Apple's latest iPhone quicker than they really need to.

I can appreciate the motive of people sleeping in a queue outside, say, an embassy to get a visa to come to Australia and escape ISIS; or those who line up for days in refugee camps to get food or medicine.

And of course the homeless in our cities have little choice but to sleep on the streets all year round.

So there's something unsettling about people putting themselves through similar physical discomfort just so they can buy a new toy slightly sooner than everyone else in the world can buy the same toy.

It's not the fault of the individual, and I even felt sorry for 16-year-old Marcus Barsoum who camped outside the Apple Store in Sydney last week so he could be the first to get the new jet black iPhone 7 Plus, only to be told all the stock had been sold in pre-orders.

Indeed I have a certain level pity for all of Apple's sleepy sidewalk sitters, here and around the globe, because it seems they've unwittingly been conned into starring in one of the most conceited, cynical marketing drives history. I call it ... the iCon!

Apple co-founder, the late Steve Jobs, created the iCon when he launched the first iPhone back in 2007.

"iPhone is a revolutionary and magical product that is literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone,” said Jobs as he stood on a stage in San Francisco while thousands of people shrieked and screamed like he was Bruce Springsteen.

Jobs could conceivably have followed up with this: "And alongside it, we're today launching the iCon: a revolutionary and magical marketing strategy that Apple will still be using to flog successive iPhones 10 or more years from now!"

More screams, whistles and the whooping.

How does the iCon work? Like anything revolutionary, it throws out the rule book and starts over.

Jobs capitalised on the radical uniqueness of that first iPhone to convince reporters and editors around the world that its very unveiling was a newsworthy event. Not a product launch! Not an advertisement! No, it was a major news story.

And it worked. The 2007 iPhone made TV bulletins and the front pages of papers right around the globe. "Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything," Jobs had boasted. And change us the iPhone did.

It changed millions of people into screen-addicted shadows of their former personalities; it turned regular punters into zombies who sit outside city buildings desperate to get their magical product before the neighbours do, and it changed critical-thinking people in the media into puppets who roll over and faithfully spruik these gadgets in news stories.

Phase two of the iCon was to withhold stock from shops long enough after the launch for desperate curiosity to rise in people's minds to the point that they'd -- yep, sleep on the cement for a few nights to make sure they didn't miss out.

To capitalise on this, the revolutionary and magical iCon somehow convinced the mainstream media that people queuing outside a shop was another "news story" worthy of the top of the TV bulletin or a double page spread in the papers.

Like the iPhone, the iCon was astronomically successful. Unlike the iPhone, it was insanely cheap.

All those stories in the media were nothing more than giant advertisements that were never paid for. Apple was gifted swathes of air-time and acres of newsprint for free.

And that was OK in 2007 when the iPhone really was a revolutionary gadget. But here we are nine years later and countless smart phones saturate the market - some of them arguably superior to Apple's.

In today's world, it's weird not to have a smart phone. The revolution is over.

But that hasn't stopped Apple from trying to pull the iCon on us year in, year out. Earlier this month Apple CEO Tim Cook did the latest Bruce Springsteen impression in front of a packed house at a San Francisco auditorium.

He gushed about this app and that app and Super Mario and "airpods" and praised the "courage" shown by developers to ditch the earphone jack and blah-blah-blah IT'S JUST A BLOODY SMART PHONE MATE!

Enough already! I believe it's way past time to call time on the iCon. Don't get me wrong; I kinda get it that Apple fans love their gadgets and good luck to them.

If you wanna keep queuing up in the rain, go your hardest.

But should the world's media remain complicit? At the next iPhone launch, I'd love to see a journo stand up and ask this question from the floor: "Mr Cook, can you please make me out a cheque for $10,000?"

"Excuse me?"

"This whole caper; the launch and the stage and the fans and the big screen and all the press flown in -- it's just an advertisement, right? Well, where I come from you pay to place an ad. So, that'll be $10,000 or no coverage in our papers. Thank you."

Of course this will never happen -- not because there's a shortage of people who'd ask such a question, but because at iPhone launches they don't take questions from the floor. It'd ruin the ad.

So I hereby call on all the media in all countries of the world to outright boycott the launch of the next iPhone.

When Apple sends out its press release, don't be Pavlov's dog: send one back to them with the contact details of your advertising manager and suggest they book some space.

Or perhaps straight out invoice Apple $10,000 for advertorial.

We all know the media is doing it hard enough without giving away ad revenue to a company worth more than $620 billion. It's bad enough that Australia lets Apple get away with paying a pittance in tax.

We shouldn't let them dud us twice.

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