In the eye of crisis, new iPhones just don't seem all that important this year

Here's to all the survivors. The families. The innovators. The rescue workers who travel into danger. The engineers who help us foresee danger and keep us connected, even in the face of disaster. It's a wild, crazy, changing world and we're all in it together.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

Damage from supertyphoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in Tacloban City, Philippines.

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Harvey. Irma. Wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. Monsoon rains in South Asia. The sixteenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. It's been a helluva weekend.

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Today, Apple is scheduled to make some big announcements. Normally, this is the sort of thing I (and many of us) look forward to. It's new tech. It's exciting. We get to see the first event from Apple's new spaceship campus. Apple always puts on a great show.

But this year, not so much. As I write this on Monday night, Irma is still making her way, as a windy and wet tropical depression, through the southeast United States. More than ten million people in Florida are without power. My house doesn't have power, either, and we had some damage. It's not terrible. My family is fine, even our little dog. That said, it's been a very stressful few weeks.

The cleanup began for Harvey weeks ago. The cleanup for Irma starts right about the same time as Tim Cook will take the stage in Cupertino. Those fighting fires in Washington State have been battling wind shifts for weeks. Millions upon millions in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh are trying to find a way to stay dry and safe.

Tech is an amazing thing. Without tech, we wouldn't have had the warning we did, and people in the line of the most damage wouldn't have had warning to evacuate. Social networks and wireless broadband have been able to keep us in touch with friends and loved ones, drill down on the news for particular neighborhoods, and coordinate unofficial relief efforts among neighbors and citizens.

But tech is also a game of model-year one-upmanship. The new iPhone might have an edge-to-edge display. That's nice, I guess. It might have face recognition. Seems like a gimmick. It might eliminate the home button. Might be nice to have that extra real estate, or it might be annoying.

Read any of the rumor sites (or even here on ZDNet) and you'll see a laundry list of new products and features Apple is expected to announce. It's interesting, sure, and in another year, it might be exciting. But given what so many have gone through over the last month or so, it just doesn't seem important. It doesn't seem relevant to what so many of us are going through.

I'm not saying Apple should cancel its event. Speaking as a relatively fortunate Irma survivor, we need that event to go on. We need to know there's some normalcy in the world. Nothing says "everything's going to be ok" better than a new crop of Apple products. They just don't seem that important this year. Knowing our loved ones are safe and getting those who need help to safety: that's what seems important.

While I've been writing this, I've been watching my little dog play with his toy, just like he does every other day. In his total innocence, he doesn't worry about hurricanes or anticipate iPhone announcements. That little guy can teach us an important, uplifting lesson: if there's a fluffy toy to chew, it must be a good day. In other words, if we're here, if we made it through another one, we're good.

I hope you're all safe out there. Good luck and be strong.

Editor's note: If a new iPhone is your fluffy toy to chew, enjoy today's event. Here's what to expect.

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