There's trivia and then there's Apple trivia

The question has caused me and other trivia fans many a sleepless night (OK, many a fruitless hour) for the better part of three years: Why in the name of Steve Jobs does every picture of every iPhone in every Apple ad show the time as 9:42?

The question has caused me and other trivia fans many a sleepless night (OK, many a fruitless hour) for the better part of three years: Why in the name of Steve Jobs does every picture of every iPhone in every Apple ad show the time as 9:42?

I had taken a shot at answering the riddle back in June 2007 by dutifully asking the Apple public relations department for an explanation. A spokesperson told me she would "try to find an answer," but, alas, she failed to come through. I moved on, reluctantly, but did not forget.

Fast-forward to earlier this month and a blog post by Jon Manning, lead developer at Secret Lab, which makes software for the Mac, iPhone and iPad. Manning noticed two things of importance on Saturday, April 3: first, that the iPad making its retail debut that day shows a time of 9:41, not 9:42, in promotional photographs; and second, that the fellow standing over there in the Palo Alto Apple store appeared to be Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iPhone software.

Screenshots from the iPad

Manning walked over to Forstall and asked the question that's been bugging (some of) us for years. Here's how it went:

Forstall: "We design the (product launch) keynotes so that the big reveal of the product happens around 40 minutes into the presentation. When the big image of the product appears on screen, we want the time shown to be close to the actual time on the audience's watches. But we know we won't hit 40 minutes exactly."

Manning: "So you add a couple of minutes?"

Forstall: "Yeah! And for the iPhone, we made it 42 minutes. It turned out we were pretty accurate with that estimate, so for the iPad, we made it 41 minutes. And there you are -- the secret of the magic time."

What a relief.

Now, it should be noted that others had speculated as far back as 2007 that the time in the photos was somehow related to the time of the initial iPhone announcement. However, this was the first I had heard of Apple looking to synch that time on the pictures with the time on the watches of audience members … and that the practice has been extended to the iPad.

Thanks for asking, Jon, and thanks for answering, Scott. (However, I must admit that it's not at all clear to me why it should matter that the time on the keynote photos should match the time on the watches … I mean other than to demonstrate that Apple leaves no stone unturned when it comes to attention to detail).

And some of you are saying, "Who cares about any of this?"

It's a fair enough question, but the answer is a whole lot of people care, at least if traffic numbers to Buzzblog are any indication. Since that item was posted on April 7, it has attracted more than 138,000 visitors, which makes it the most-read post since Buzzblog debuted in early 2006. And a few thousand more are coming to read it every day.

Apple customers care about everything Apple.

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