[Update: Now that we've confirmed what the iPhone 5 looks like, it's actually looking quite good. The black version has a darker metal, whereas the white looks more raw. The taller screen has been confirmed, but whether or not the earphone jack has changed is still unclear.]
I think the iPhone 4 (and the iPhone 4S) is one of the most beautiful objects I’ve ever laid my eyes on, and even though I’m excited about the iPhone 5 and its purported new form factor, it really has a lot to live up to. I complain that the metal and glass tend to compromise my ability to hold the device securely in my hand, but there’s no denying how much they make the 4 and 4S look and feel like premium devices. The change from rounded plastic and glass on the 3G and 3GS to the sharper metal and glass form of the 4 and 4S made all the difference, immediately changing the identity of the smartphone from a gadget and into a machine – something that is decidedly not a toy. I got the exact same feeling when I switched from plastic PCs to the unibody design of the aluminum MacBook Pro.
But while I think the brushed metal looks great on the iPad and MacBook, I’m not totally sold on the mockups we’ve seen of a unibody iPhone 5 made out of metal. A metal iPhone will likely be hardier when it comes to drops, but I can’t help but feel the iPhone will be giving up some of its elegance by moving away from the double glass design.
However, I do think it’s really interesting to see the earphone jack along the bottom of the device, as it is on the iPod Touch. This means I’ll have to get used to putting the iPhone in my pocket upside down, but it probably means a little less strain on my earphone cords overall (they’ll simply hang downwards while I use my iPhone) and it will mean that I can just scoop my iPhone out of my pocket without having to re-orient it. I really hope the Apple presentation goes into exactly *why* the earphone jack has changed locations, as I’m terribly curious about the kind of feedback that caused the change.
I’m also really curious about how Apple will handle the rumoured increase in screen height. A landscape iPhone will be great for videos and pictures, but I hope they don’t handle native iPhone apps on a widescreen iPhone in the same way that iPhone apps are handled on an iPad. Tapping a 2x or 1x button to re-frame the image just doesn’t work well – it feels like a hack.
In any case, we’ll find all of this out very soon…