When the iPhone was first launched there was tremendous hype and to be honest, at first I didn’t get what it was all about. It was said to be this amazing device, way ahead of its time which did everything you could want, and more. The concept of a phone with no buttons – well almost- was too good to be true. Usually an unbeliever I refused to be taken in by the herd mentality and preferred to stick with my phone as opposed to getting a ‘gadget’.
But I was wrong. When I finally held the phone in my hands, I was equally blown away and I just had to have it. It really did live up to the hype, thanks to the user experience that stems from its elegant hardware design and how seamlessly it combined with iOS.
But after Apple’s launch of the iPhone 5 – which is actually the sixth iteration of the device – I am left wondering once again if it really is something amazing.
With many of the new features revealed for the new iPhone, it feels like Apple is just playing catch-up with many of the available high-end Android handsets. Take the larger, 4-inch screen size, for example. Clearly this is a response to the trend of Android smartphones including ever-larger screen sizes. Samsung’s Galaxy Note II with its 5.5-inch screen size and Galaxy S III with its 4.8-inch screen size sold like hot cakes and Apple must have been suffering screen envy. In response, it upsized the iPhone screen to four inches, typical of many Android devices on the market. 4-inch displays are what many makers are now beginning to push in their entry-level Android smartphones. Many mid-end and flagship smartphones spot 4.3-inch, 4.5-inch, 4.7-inch and 4.8-inch displays.
So is it enough? Many of the features on the 5 are the same that were already available on the 4S. It seems that for the first time since the launch of the iPhone and subsequent launches of upgraded models like the 3, 3S, 4 an 4S, Apple is finally playing catch up with the competition.
For the first time, whatever the new iPhone has to offer is already out there. Most of the features are exactly what had been rumoured. This is why the iPhone has lived up to expectations, but unlike previous launches has not surpassed expectations. The ‘wow’ factor is missing.
The big screen, LTE communication, 8 megapixel camera, it’s all out there in the latest offerings from Samsung and HTC. Apple is still leaving out standard features offered by many Android phones. The iPhone 5 does not have near-field communications (NFC) chip technology so it can’t be tapped to NFC tags to conveniently trigger certain device functions, the way that the just-announced Nokia Lumia 920 will start streaming its audio over a JBL speaker when you simply tap it with the phone. Apple still refuses to allow for external memory card slots to further expand storage. And it still won’t do Flash.
So, is the iPhone 5 still a phone to get or has the world finally passed Apple by?
But Apple claims that the iPhone 5 is faster. That is something. It is thinner. That is something. And we know it is much lighter. The way the hardware and the iOS sync so effortlessly to give probably best UI of all the smartphones out there is still something.
The iPhone 5 is a good smartphone, and should sell, but it is not a great smartphone and its days of outselling Android have long since been over. The iPhone no longer leads the smartphone pack. Still, the iPhone 5’s secret may be in the user experience. Not a list of features that may or may not be included in other smartphones, but a cumulative effect resulting from design and execution. A smartphone that “just works.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2012.