I debated long and hard whether to upgrade to the iPhone 5 or not. Three minutes later I decided to upgrade. I will attempt to write something coherent about it that is different from all the hundreds of reviews out there. If you want a review, Ars Technica is a good place to start.
The iPhone 5 is what most girls aspire to be: taller and thinner.
There was a time when smaller gadgets were a good thing. Then came the phablets trying to convince us that, yes, you need to own more cargo pants and that’s a good thing. I’ll reveal the dirty truth behind those behemoths:
When designing portable electronics, pick two three:
- Power / speed
- Small size
- Decent battery life
It’s possible to get all three, but it is very very hard. This is what I find the most impressive about the new iPhone – no compromises where it matters. It has LTE and 802.11n. It’s a lot faster. And still it has good battery life. And it’s lighter and thinner. Do not underestimate the amount of effort and engineering behind this phone. Every single cubic millimeter was fought for. Every single one.
Build quality / looks
Like the iPhone 4/4S, this phone is built not with the craftsmanship normally used on phones, but that of an expensive watch. Best to see it in person, second best to see it here.
I thought an extra half inch was a very small difference. But after using it I realized a couple of things.
First, the screen size went from 960×640 (iPhone 4 / 4S) to 1136×640 pixels which is only an extra 176 pixels (18%) taller – not that much. But in actual use, the size increase of actual content is much larger. Let me illustrate:
As you can see, the area of the actual content – not UI elements like the toolbar or keyboard – went from 397 pixels high to 573. That’s about 44% larger! It makes a big difference in daily use.
Second, as much as I like the larger screen, I am also struggling to reach the opposite upper corner of the screen with my thumb when I’m holding the phone with one hand. I will need to adjust how I hold the phone so I can more easily reach all corners and I will need to start doing some serious hand calisthenics. Ironically, I never had any “Antennagate” issues with the iPhone 4 and didn’t have to adjust how I hold the phone. If you don’t understand what I mean, watch this commercial.
This shows me that a lot of thought went into deciding the screen size. Any phone with a screen larger than 4 inches would be nearly impossible to use one-handed for anyone who does not play in the NBA; unless perhaps if the full UI and all apps were designed so that all buttons fall in the bottom part of the screen which none of the smartphone Operating Systems do. This is important to me as I often find myself using the phone with one hand. Do people buying those giant Android phone even realize what they are missing? Probably not.
Even though this phone is twice as fast (benchmarks) as my previous one, I don’t feel that huge of a difference day to day. Probably because the iPhone 4S was plenty fast. Some things do feel much faster: App launching, website loading, and the camera is waaay faster. The 3D maps are very smooth.
The rate at which smartphone speeds have increased since 2007 is impressive and has exceeded Moore’s Law (at least the “speed” interpretation of it). The new chip is a great engineering feat. How did they achieve it? First, by making the transistors even smaller. Credit for this goes to Samsung, who fabricates Apple’s chip designs here in Austin. Second, by using a new processor design. Nobody knows what it is. But it’s speculated that Apple designed it in-house. If true, this would be a first for Apple, and would make it very hard for other phone manufacturers to duplicate.
Stop whining. Grow up. Technology moves forward. The Dock connector had to go. This is not a ploy to take all your money. The old thing was annoying as hell, half the time you plug it in backwards, it was huge, and it had 30 pins, most of them no longer needed. It was obsolete.
Remember how they cried when the iMac ditched the floppy disk? Or the MacBook Air ditched the DVD? If it were up to tech writers you’d still be plugging in your printer to a parallel port.
In the end it’s short term pain for long term gain. I no longer plug the cable in backwards half the time. And it allowed making the phone smaller and thinner. OK? OK.
I really, really don’t know what NFC gets you that you cannot do in other ways using the existing hardware on your phone. Transferring information to nearby phones: see how Bump does it (still useless I’d say). Paying with your phone: See how Pay With Square does it (this one is cool). As far as I can see, there’s no way to justify the additional size/power usage/costs of adding NFC.
This is Sprint’s LTE coverage in my area:
The yellow push pin in the middle is me. The large orange areas around me are the cities where Sprint has fast LTE coverage. San Antonio, Houston, Dallas… even Waco! but not the Silicon Hills. FML.
The iPhone 5 is an improvement in every single area. No compromises. But on the other hand, there is not one single all-new must-have life-will-never-be-the-same feature. The hardware alone makes it the best phone money can buy. Add to that the fact that it runs iOS and there is no question about it.
So should you buy it?
If you have an iPhone 4 or older, or any other phone brand, then definitely. And if you are out of contract then run to the store: considering cell phone companies subsidize $450 off your phone over the two years contract, and that they don’t give you a price break once the contract expires… well, you are giving them $20 every month unless you get a new phone.
iPhone 4S owners? Well, I bought it 🙂