So the iPhone 5 has been announced and if you are reading this you probably know the deal. Taller screen, better display and camera, lighter, thinner, faster, bettery battery – you get the idea. All in all a very solid upgrade on the 4S. I’m not one for ‘reviews’ so instead I thought I’d do a post on the specific things that I think stand out, both positive and negative, from a hardware and software perspective.
The design. On paper, it is just a taller iPhone, but you must watch the video, which explains parts of the manufacturing process and really shows off the quality of the engineering. I get the feeling this phone will feel amazing to hold, and combined with being so much lighter and thinner will be of an overall quality entirely unmatched in the marketplace.
Reversible dock connector. The new lightning connector on the iPhone 5 was a necessity to allow for further size reductions and space efficiency within the phone, but one cool practical feature is that it can be plugged in either orientation – no more searching for the little symbol on the connector to work out which way is ‘up’.
4G in the UK. Great to see that, unlike the new iPad’s embarrassingly non-existant support for international high-speed data networks, the iPhone 5 will support the UK’s first 4G network powered by EE. Interestingly, Apple will actually be shipping three different models of the iPhone 5 to cater for the various LTE technologies employed by networks across the globe.
New headphones. Can’t complain based on the marketing, but we’ll have to see how well they perform in reality.
Battery. If the claims are true and the battery life is indeed better, even with the new hardware and software features, that is a welcome addition. Only real-world tests will truly demonstrate how much improvement has actually been achieved.
Asynchronous multiplayer gaming. The impressiveness of this feature depends on what it can actually do, but apparantly during the presentation of Real Racing 3, a player was shown to not only race against the ghost of another player, they can actually interact with that player, like bumping their car. This is seriously impressive and fits perfectly into the way that mobile users play games (ie at their convenience rather than at ore-arranged synchronised times). There doesn’t seem to be much written about this, but The Verge has a snippet here.
FaceTime over 3/4G. Great! Expect carriers to make a nuisance of themselves here though, and watch out for those data charges.
iTunes. iTunes 11 will be released in late October and boasts native iCloud integration and a revamped UI. I was however hoping for some improvements to the device management capabilities which I find clunky, awkward and unpredictable.
The not so good
Adapters. To use any existing iOS connectors with the iPhone 5 will require an adapter to convert to the new lightning port size. The cost of these adapters is £25. I actually expected Apple to run some kind of promotion, such as a 30 day ‘get one free/half price’ deal or something, but unfortunately if you buy an iPhone 5 and want to use any of your existing sync cables, or if you have any accessories that use the old-style connection, you’ll need to cough up. Fortunately, for £15 you can pick up a converter from the Apple Store that lets you use existing micro USB adapters, but this won’t help for accessories like speakers, car chargers and the like which will require the adapter to function.
Update on adapters:Two things. Firstly, it seems someone in Apple decided to include adapters, at least in the UK, with the new iPhones, as TUAW blogger Richard Gaywood screenshotted here. Apple have confirmed they will not honour the ‘mistake’ which is poor form really, and I wonder if anyone will be bothered to take this up with the trading standards authorities. Secondly, there is a big difference between the dock-to-lightning and microUSB-to-lightning connectors. The USB version doesn’t support certain audio functions like using controls on 3rd party devices (like car kits) and isn’t powerful enough to charge the iPad. Those adapters are actually rather advanced, it seems, and so there are advantages and consumer benefits to Apple using this proprietary connection.
Google Maps. iOS 6 replaces the pre-installed Google-powered maps app with Apple’s own in-house offering. While it gains some features like navigation and “fly-over”, it loses staple services like Street View and Google’s transit directions. How big a deal this is depends on your own usage but the silver lining is that Google will no doubt release their own standalone maps app which will be far more integrated to Google services than when it was under Apple’s tight control. Apple are allowing 3rd party developers to integrate with the Maps app I believe, so this could potentially pave the way for even more information accessible with the app in the future.
App Store search. The new app search feature in iOS 6, while purportedly powered by better software to deliver more relevant results, shows large app cards now as opposed to a list of apps, which to me seems to make browsing more laborious as fewer results are shown on screen at any one time. On the smaller iPhone screen, only a single app is shown per page in the search results.
No doubt many will lambast the iPhone 5 for being only iterative rather than revolutionary, and while that may be true to an extent I think it is easy to fail to appreciate what goes into the actually delivering such a device that is smaller, lighter, faster than its predecessor without sacrificing battery life. I’m thoroughly impressed by what Apple have achieved, and think it is a shame that much of the excitement has been dampened by the extraordinarily accurate array of leaks that have allowed us to build a picture of the phone prior to its announcement.
A revolution this is not. It remains to be seen what truly ground-breaking innovation Apple have up their sleeves now that Jobs’ vision is no longer driving the company.