Today, Apple unveiled their latest smartphone, the iPhone 5 (as well as some new iPods, but we’ll get to that another time). Unfortunately, a combination of a few different things made the introduction of the new phone mediocre at best. Apple already has a history of not changing much when it comes to their melding of hardware and software, but this next phone has taken that to a new level. They did introduce some new features, such as LTE, some new additions to the capabilities of Siri, some highlights of newly announced iOS 6 features, and the most obvious, a longer screen, but the problem this time is the late introduction of these features, which have all been available on other devices for a long time. Keep reading for a walkthrough of these features plus a look at why they are rather underwhelming.
We Already Knew That, Apple
Apple decided to change their approach to their latest iPhone, leaking a bunch of photos and information about it before the official reveal. Most companies will do that in order to build up a little hype, but they won’t go as far as to reveal everything. Apple, however, revealed pretty much everything about their new phone before holding the press conference (in their defense, the Foo Fighters were a surprise). Part of classic Apple hardware reveal is keeping the new design secret until the absolute last minute. Even Tim Cook promised to double down on Apple secrecy when he took over. Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to work. This combined with one other thing, were key in making today’s Apple conference a bit of a let down. Which leads us too…..
Late to the game….
An iconic quote by the late Steve Jobs refers to the chosen original screen size of the iPhone is that nobody would desire to carry around anything larger because of the bulk. This, of course, turned out to be false as some of the most popular smartphones have screens much larger than the iPhone. Unfortunately for Apple, they seem to be a little too late to the large screen party. In typical Apple fashion, they tried to market the screen as an iconic change in history. In reality, it has become more of an “it’s about time” feature. But hey, at least it lets that extra row of apps in there…
Again, this “feature” has been present in other smartphones for an incredibly long time and should have been included in last years 4S model. Apple was hyping the incredible speeds that the iPhone could reach on an LTE network as opposed to previous models. Well of course it can, just like every other LTE capable phone out there. This isn’t some magical new feature that is suddenly just now available to use. Because of this, it’s hardly a feature that will win over anyone who already has an LTE capable phone.
It would seem that Apple has at least listened to everyone who attempted to use Siri and has integrated it more deeply into the phone, giving it the ability to open apps and make restaurant reservations. Unfortunately, again, these are not new or innovative features. Both Windows Phone and Android have had these capabilities for a while, as well as any map integrations. Like everyone else, it only made sense to me for Apple to include these things in Siri at the release of the 4S. Now they are late to the game and have nothing all that new to offer in this department.
But What About Other iOS 6 Features:
This is where Apple seems to be the most behind in innovation. One of the biggest things coming to iOS 6 is the addition of turn by turn navigation in their new Maps. This, of course, has been present on both Windows Phone since launch and Android Phones through Google Maps for years. Again, nothing new has been brought to the GPS world as Google already monitors traffic, accidents and has now integrated Google Now into their latest updates.
“But hey, what about that cool Safari thing and carrying tabs and settings over and stuff?” Well yes…that stuff is incredibly useful, not to mention already present on all Android devices through Chrome and Google Now. Again, simply another feature that Apple has ported over to their phones.
Some Things You Might Be Able to Call “New”
That New Connector Thingy:
Yes, once again, Apple has chosen to go with a proprietary connector when it comes to their new iPhone. So now Apple can continue to license their design out (for a fee of course) to accessory makers in order to start converting the millions of suddenly outdated connectors out there to the new format. Apple’s own adapter is rather bulky, adding almost a whole inch to the length of the phone (and it isn’t cheap at $29 a pop). Did Apple need to update their connector? Of course they did, but they should have gone with a more universally accepted micro-usb cabling that other phones have moved to. Not so that they could be like everybody else, but so that iPhone owners don’t have to keep carrying around their iPhone cable in addition to micro-usb cables for any other devices they own. “But it can be plugged in either way! You don’t even have to face it the right direction anymore.” You’re absolutely right and your life is going to be a million times easier between that and those extra four apps on your first screen.
Look, New Headphones:
They did re-design their Ear Buds for the new phone and iPods, but don’t expect these to blow out other earphones. Initial hands on impressions from Engadget and CNET are stating that, while different and an upgrade from their previous earphones, don’t expect the quality of these to be replacing high end (or even medium end) ear buds any time soon. So this falls under the “meh” category.
So What’s Missing?
I have to agree with their decision to leave this out as of right now, though I disagree with their reasoning. Apple left it out because they felt that adding extra accessories would confuse the consumer too much (dock connector adapter, anyone?). Personally, I find wireless charging (which is being added to Nokia’s upcoming Lumia 920 and 820 models) to be slightly gimmicky and untested at this point. It is still debatable about it being more convenient than plugging your phone in (charge times, etc).
NFC (near field communications) is something that is being heavily integrated into new Windows Phones and Android phones. This has largely to do with Google Wallet and Windows Phone similar payment system (as well as other pairing features in both platforms). Physically, with the metal backing on the iPhone 5, implementation of NFC would be difficult because the material would hinder the ability to perform. Unfortunately for Apple, NFC appears that it is going to be a huge part of the smartphone world over the next few years, and they seem to have missed their chance to jump on the technology while it was still a new and exciting feature (like LTE, Maps, large screens, etc).
The combination of early leaks and old news hardware in the newest iPhone seem to be what has killed the “Apple Magic” for many observers around the internet. Many people were crying for these features to be included in the 4S in order to keep up with competition. The fact that they are just now getting them has made the iPhone that much less exciting. Will it still sell? It will sell and it will sell well. But it will not have the same momentum as it did back when it was truly new and exciting. The software is becoming stale and the hardware isn’t doing much beyond looking pretty. Apple knew this reaction would likely hit, and already had a video ready on their site to explain that their user base is sensitive and wouldn’t like anything to change, so minor tweaks were where they had to stay for now. This, of course, will not spell the end for the iPhone or serve as the blow that sends Apple spiraling back down to the position it held in the 90’s, but it could mark a step in that direction if Apple doesn’t take a serious look at their lack of recent innovation.