By now, you’ve probably read a ton about the latest release from Apple of the phone that pretty much defined the modern smartphone. In classic Apple fashion, the iPhone 5 is actually the sixth model of the iPhone (there were two models numbered 3 and 4, and no model ever numbered 2.)
Like every single iPhone ever turned loose on the market, there were lines of people waiting to buy it, scores of people waiting to scorn it, and everyone else who wonders if they will want it.
So after one week of real-world ownership, let me make it easy for those of you who like to skip to the end of story to see how it turns out:
You probably will.
The iPhone 5 is an excellent unit that improves on nearly every facet of the device from the 4S which it succeeds. While many people will focus primarily on the larger screen as the biggest change, the iPhone 5 really advances the state of the art in just how many ways this model is more refined than its predecessors—and so many other competitors now on the market.
Let me stop here and tell you that while I am a long time user of Apple products and an iPhone owner since 2007, I have spent the last few months using a Samsung Galaxy Nexus running the latest version of Google’s Android software (4.1) called Jelly Bean.
And without reservation I can tell you that it was a great experience. The Nexus is a sleek phone with a huge (4.65 inches diagonally) screen and it really is the standard bearer for the Android platform. I do know that Samsung’s Galaxy S3 is the phone that gets the most press as perhaps the best Android phone available (along with the HTC One and Droid Razr M), but Jelly Bean isn’t available for the S3 here in the US yet, and so I’m not as impressed with that model.
I tell you this, because I’m not an Android hater—in fact I think it’s a great competitor for the iPhone, and in some ways there are key features that are better than the iPhone. Where Android fails, in my view, is that there are so many variations and models of phones that are far less than the iPhone that it dilutes the experience badly. In other words, in trying to be everything to everyone, Android often isn’t as good as it should be.
Now would be a good point to deal with the biggest controversy that follows the release of the new iPhone 5, or as it would be titled as a Nancy Drew story, “The Case of the Missing Maps.”
With the release of the latest version of Apple’s mobile device operating system, known as iOS6, which runs on recent model iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices, Apple made a major shift, by changing the application which provides location maps in a fashion similar to a car GPS unit. Maps in iOS6 moved from being those provided by Google to a new, completely Apple created app (with a little help from GPS company Tom Tom.) This new app added new features like turn-by-turn directions, which many Android users had been enjoying for some time, thanks to Google.
The howls came in fast and furious that the new Apple maps were not as complete, detailed, accurate, or whatever–as the previous Google-sourced maps. The criticisms were more accurate (in some cases) than the maps. Even long time Apple lovers (such as the NYTimes technology columnist David Pogue) had to admit that the Maps app in iOS6 were pretty crappy.
The backlash and outcry grew through this first week after the iPhone5 went on sale and finally this past Friday, Apple CEO Tim Cook had to take the extraordinary step of actually admitting the Maps weren’t as good as most everything Apple tries to do. He also suggested that while Apple gets to work fixing the problem, users might want to try Mapping applications from a whole bunch of other providers.
Including Google’s web based Maps. (Which you can make appear as “app-like” button on your i-device with literally one step. Just so you know.)
Did I mention that Apple moved over five million new iPhone 5s out the door in the first weekend it was on sale? There is no indication that a weak new Maps app led to most of those being returned or anything like that. Some folks actually said the new Maps were just fine with them, but they might have already been directionally challenged, so lets just say that Apple swung and missed at the Mapping thing.
But it would be short sighted to think they won’t get better at it…and do so very quickly.
To those of us who are long time iPhone users, it isn’t like we haven’t heard this kind of wailing from iPhone haters before. There was the hue and cry over the original iPhone not having a replaceable battery. The mocking over the glass back panel of the iPhone 4 and 4S. Just to mention a couple of examples.
The other big opening for the critics was that Apple dumped the connector that has been used for syncing, charging and docking on all previous iPhones (not to mention most every iPod model and all iPads to date.) It was changed in favor of new small digital connector called “Lightning”. By making a new, smaller connector that wasn’t backwards compatible, Apple was making a whole catalog of third party made devices incompatible with the new iPhone.
So let’s state it here, if you have a dock or other device that is “iPhone compatible” because it can plug into the bottom of previous iPhones, you likely can’t use it with the new iPhone 5. Apple is making an adaptor that will go between the old style connector and the new lightning connector, but it really isn’t widely available yet. And even when it becomes available, it might not work to allow music to play or other functions to work.
Let’s also give a quick mention about two smaller items that some folks have been freaking out about on the new iPhone 5: First of all the Aluminum back on the black model made be more prone to show scratches if you carry it a pocket with your car keys (not unlike your hands if you keep them in the same pocket) The white iPhone 5 model may suffer from a “light leak” where the light the powers the screen shows up where it isn’t supposed to.
When you turn it on in a near or completely dark room.
If you’ve read this far, you probably are convinced that this thing isn’t worth your time—or money, so goodbye iPhone 5 and hello anything else from the display or a zillion new phones at your local cell phone retailer.
It is my considered opinion that would you be making a mistake if you go that way.
The reason you see so many iPhones wherever you go these days, is not that they just look good. It is because they just work in what can best be called a very elegant and refined way. When they don’t, you take them to a Genius in the local Apple Store and they can either fix them or replace them (though sometimes for a fee if your warranty is expired).
Go into a Samsung store and see if…oh wait–there are not any Samsung stores. So go into your cell phone retailer and ask them to fix or replace your phone. See how well that works out for you.
Lets get down to why you will be impressed by this thing.
From the moment you pick up an iPhone 5 for the first time, you will note two things immediately: One is that the thing feels more solidly built than even the iPhone 4/4S models that came before it. The other is that it feels like it has been on the South Beach Diet for the past year.
Both observations are correct.
The iPhone 5 is about 20% less weighty than its predecessors. That’s because Apple made the things inside of the new model smaller and the battery bigger. Which is important because the new generation of speedy 4G wireless data that everyone wants to use (known as “LTE”) is known to suck batteries dry faster than a kid leaving a flashlight on all night under the covers of their bed.
My experience is that the 5 does well on battery life, as well or better than most any regular sized smartphone, outside of the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx, which has a very large battery and a much thicker form to contain it. On the iPhone 5, a full day of data use, texting and a few phone calls does not get interrupted by a dead battery. But yes you will need to charge the iPhone 5 every night, just like every other modern smartphone.
Why the iPhone 5 is a great phone is because so much work has gone into making this phone fast. As in what folks from Boston would call “wicked fast”. Things happen much quicker when you touch the screen, due to a custom new Apple designed chip inside. The LTE data connection (where and if it is supported by your selected wireless provider) is incredible. Think going from an old school “dial up” modem on the telephone line to “broadband” service on a cable line.
Yes, it is that fast. Trust me.
The iPhone 5’s screen is larger, but not the largest around. Apple made the decision to not make the new model any wider, just taller to accommodate a 4-inch (diagonally measured) screen. This seems like not a big deal until you use the phone for a bit. The new size of both the screen–and whole phone–seems like it is truly in the sweet spot for exactly what you want to carry in your hand or pocket.
You can operate the 5 with one hand, using your thumb to do most of the work. On any larger model of a phone, you will pretty much always need two hands. To do most anything. Including answering the phone.
I’m not saying that you won’t be able to go on living without going right out and getting a new iPhone 5 or anything like that. I’m just saying that after you see one for yourself and hold it in your hands, you may not want to.
After one week of having it on me, I can’t imagine not having one. It is that good in a market crowded with phones that can do so many things for most people. The iPhone 5 just does them all a little better than the competition.
Having the largest library of Applications and the largest catalog of downloadable content in terms of music, movies, TV shows, and just about everything else that is available in the digital entertainment world via the iTunes store, makes the choice of the iPhone 5 that much easier.
Particularly if you already have your own collection of Apps or iTunes content on an iPad or iPod. That will all go into the iPhone 5 like it was made for it.
Because of course, it was.
I could go on about how much I like this phone, and that in many ways it has renewed my enthusiasm about the iPhone more than any model since the original. That will sound like nothing more than “fanboy” hyperbole, so I will wrap this up with the following observation.
If you are looking for the best smartphone to spend your hard earned $200 bucks on, you really have to consider the iPhone 5. Even along with the best models of Android or the newly emerging Windows Phone units, it is simply as many reviewers have called it “the best smartphone model out there right now.” If you have an iPhone now, you will want an iPhone 5 as soon as you can upgrade. If you hate the iPhone, you have even more reason to do so now. If you don’t have an iPhone 5, this model might move you to be a believer in how good the iPhone really is.
That is if you are willing to wait a little bit. Apple now says at its website that the wait is 3-4 weeks to get one if your order it today.
Obviously there are already a lot of believers out there already.