I like to think of myself as a fair person. I think Nokia’s Lumia 800 is an exemplar of excellent design. I think some of the Samsung phones are sleek and sexy. As a designer, I am not biased to brands- I just enjoy good design. Apple seems to routinely create excellently designed products in the same vein as products created by Braun of yesteryear. There have been duds, such as the flowered iMac, some of those cheeky yellow iPods, or even the current, ugly skeuomorphic Contacts and Calendar apps in OS X. Overall Apple creates great designs.
The iPhone 5, to my eyes (and hands) has reached a new level of excellence. When Apple claimed that the iPhone 5′s manufacturing precision is now measured in microns, and I believe it. There is a certain tangible fit and finish to this device that I cannot describe with words. Just get your hands on one.
The display is refined beyond what I thought it could be. With the introduction of the iPhone 4, I though, at least for the foreseeable future, screen technology was about as good as it was going to get. Well, with the iPhone 5, the display is as close to the surface of the glass as I think it can get for awhile. It feels like you are actually touching the pixels. It’s amazing, and again, I can’t describe it with words. You’ll just have to see one for yourself.
As for the size, it’s a little offsetting to me. I have smaller than average hands for a male, and the 4-inch screen is unwieldy to me, at least for now. Perhaps in a week or two it will seem normal. For now, my tiny velvet hands are having trouble getting used to the new, larger screen.
Much has been said elsewhere regarding iOS 6, which became available to other iOS devices earlier this week. Apple’s Maps app is kinda busted at the moment, Siri has seen some improvements, and other little refinements have been added, such as Passbook. It’s not a groundbreaking release of iOS like some of the earlier versions, but it is a nice update nonetheless.
Letterboxing of apps works just like you’d expect it to. However, I do have a problem with it. My thumbs are used to typing in the traditional area on previous iterations of the iPhone. With leterboxing, the keyboard, and the entirety of the app, is lifted above its normal resting area. This means your thumbs have to stretch upward to reach the new keyboard on apps that not optimized for the new screen size. This is a stopgap, and I believe, much like with the introduction of the iPad, developers will quickly update their apps to take advantage of the new screen size. This is a awkward period that will pass in time.
I haven’t spent a lot of time with my iPhone 5 yet, but the A6 chip sees to deliver what was promised- improved speed. Applications seem to respond quicker, and everything feels snappier. Beyond that, I haven’t had enough time with the device to say whether it’s a blow away improvement.
This is another awkward phase for the iPhone, much like the leterboxing noted above. There has been much complaining amongst the tech press that this new connector breaks the ecosystem that has grown around iPod, iPhones, iPads and the 30-pin dock connector that has been with us for the better part of a decade. I think this will be a non-issue in a year’s time, when all of Apple’s iPod, iPhone, and iPad lines have the lightning connector built in. I will say that it would have been nice for Apple to include one 30-pin-to-lightning adapter with the iPhone. To me, $30 is a bit steep for a piece of plastic that lets you tap into the ecosystem you already own. Again, I believe this will pass with time. People don’t like disruptions when they come, and this is a disruption.
Sprint does not offer LTE in my area currently, but I have heard through some local birdies, that Sprint is waiting to activate LTE service after the iPhone 5 launches. Anyway, are very own Rob Renk claims that he is receiving on average 15Mbps download speeds from AT&T’s LTE service. So, it would seem that LTE really is faster than most home Wi-Fi networks.
Just like it has been said elsewhere, these new EarPods are a significant step up from the earbuds Apple had been shipping with iPods and iOS devices for years. However, they still don’t deliver fantastic sound (No, I am not an audiophile) like you get out of a good set of costly headphones. Apple’s claim that they fit better in ear than the previous earbuds seems to be the case, although the experience is jarring at first. They fit deeper in the ear, and are comfortable enough that you forget that they are in after awhile. Not bad, but not great.
I can’t discern much of a difference between the picture taken with the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5 aside from slightly deeper color saturation. Panorama mode, which is included in iOS 6 is a nice addition. Overall, the camera refinement is appreciated, but hardly the sole reason one would upgrade from the iPhone 4S or even the iPhone 4.
The Complete Package:
Together as one device, the iPhone 5 comes together to be the best iPhone to date, and dare I say the best smartphone to date. Now, it’s a subtle update over the iPhone 4S, but a significant update over the iPhone 4. But that’s the point isn’t it? Most people are not like me, and do not upgrade every year. The average customer will upgrade when their two-year contract is up- which is when a new iPhone will be available for those users. They are the ones that see the biggest improvements, simply because they skip a generation.
That said, the iPhone 5 is a generation you might want to consider buying if you can afford it. It’s a sleek machine, with enough power that it rivals a G5 workstation from just nine years ago. The speed at which ultra-portable processing power is advancing is simply amazing to me. The bigger, brighter, better display, along with the new processor, camera, and redesign, culminates in a very nice package indeed.