With the iPhone X, Apple made some big changes to who gets review units first, and not everyone is taking it very well

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Fashion/YouTube

    With the new iPhone X, Apple made big changes to its list of reviewers to whom it provides test devices. Apple ruffled some feathers by giving some video bloggers the first chance to publish first impression videos about the new phone, instead of some longtime tech reviewers. The changes reflect Apple’s broader evolution from a niche tech company to a mainstream brand.

Apple’s new iPhone X doesn’t hit store shelves until Friday, but squabbles about who gets the hotly-anticipated device first are already breaking out.

But the quarrels aren’t being triggered by consumers battling for the best spot in lines outside Apple’s stores. Instead the noisy discontent is coming from among the select group of journalists, bloggers and product reviewers who’ve long been accustomed to getting early access to the newest iPhones.

Some, it seems, are not taking well to Apple’s surprise changes to its list of reviewers to whom it doles out its first test devices and to the amount of time it lets reviewers play with the device before they can publish their impressions.

In a series of venom-filled posts on Monday, for example, Apple blogger John Gruber lashed out at some of the media outlets he apparently deemed unworthy of getting early access to the new iPhone.

iPhone X

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Hollis Johnson

“Thank god Apple seeded Mike Allen with an iPhone X review unit. Such great insight from his fucking nephew, the emoji expert,” Gruber wrote sarcastically, referring to a piece in which the Axios executive editor delegated some of his product review to his 19-year-old nephew.

“Thank god Apple seeded Fashion with a review unit,” Gruber railed on, referring to a YouTube video blogger who also numbered among the first to receive an iPhone X test device. While Gruber got a review unit as well, he was one of the bloggers that were given less time than usual to test the device before he could publish his review.

No one likes to be second fiddle

Gruber, along with many other outlets including Business Insider, had less than 24 hours to play with the iPhone X before Apple’s restrictions on publishing reviews lifted Tuesday morning. By contrast, Apple allowed Allen, Wired’s Stephen Levy, and several YouTube bloggers, to publish their reviews on Monday after having their test devices for about a week.

Gruber’s reaction was by far the angriest, and it elicited a flurry of responses:

But Gruber was not the only tech pundit to question Apple’s approach to iPhone X reviews:

David Pogue, another member of the product review “old guard,” was more diplomatic, but even his piece included a hint of pique. Pogue highlighted October 31 as one of four “dates to keep in mind” with regard to the iPhone X timeline. Why? Because that’s when most of “the professional reviews appear,” Pogue wrote.

Meanwhile, Brian Chen at the New York Times insisted he would not play along with Apple’s new rules:

The writing has been on the wall

The hubbub may seem like the kind of parochial, media tempest in a teacup that only journalists care about. But it points to a bigger change that has defined the Apple story over the past decade or more.

Just a few days before the first iPhone was unveiled in 2007, Apple still officially called itself Apple Computer. It was a small niche player in the computer and consumer electronics industry.

Since then, the company has evolved remarkably. It’s become the most valuable company in the world with major influence far beyond the tech industry. And it’s become as much a mass-market lifestyle brand as a computer vendor. Indeed, Apple is arguably now more of a luxury company than a tech company, with buyers of the iPhoneX just as likely to buy a Louis Vuitton product instead, noted an analyst at HSBC Holdings on Tuesday.

As Apple has evolved, its marketing has had to change too, to reach new audiences and customers far beyond its tech fan base. And that’s meant shedding, or at least de-emphasizing, some of its old ways and old friends as dispassionately as it dropped the word “computer” from its name.