It’s well known to everyone that I love Google’s open source mobile operating system so much that talking well of some other platforms is of course hard to pass by as mere doublespeak. So let me get to the point: the newest device that iOS, Android’s chief competitor will support: the newly unveiled iPhone 5.
I have no kind words for the iPhone 5. Last year same time, I would easily have overlooked any Droid and gotten myself an iPhone 4 (the iPhone 4S had not yet been unveiled) given the financial resources. I mean the iPhone 4 was just the hottest smartphone out there. Then came the iPhone 5 that never was, the iPhone 4S. The iPhone 4S was released when we had all made ourselves believe that it was the iPhone 5 that Apple would unveil. Very wrong. That disappointment with the launch of the iPhone 4S only served to put the iPhone 5 on a pedestal with so many expectations from consumers and pundits alike. Somewhere in between, the iPhone 4S went on to gain massive sells and propel Apple’s stock to all-time highs; a trend that would continue with the January 2012 launch of the “new iPad”. The party was well until Samsung made a follow up of its overly successful Galaxy S II with the incredible Galaxy S III. The rest as they say is history.
While it is obvious the fanboys will flock Apple stores the world over when the iPhone 5 is eventually available on September 21st (US only) and September 28th (UK, Germany and other select countries), I doubt the iPhone 5 will be attractive to those migrating from other platforms. I mean Windows Phone, despite all misgivings, is just getting awesome by the day, and Android is maturing too. With Jelly Bean, the many features that iOS 6 brings for the first time to the iPhone and the other iOS devices seem like a joke. First of all many of those features have been around on Android for so long (turn by turn navigation on Maps, “tighter” Facebook integration) and secondly, Jelly Bean is Android’s most appreciated effort at providing a very smooth user experience on a platform often chastised for being very fragmented.
I happened to miss the official unveiling of the iPhone 5 live stream but thanks to YouTube I am easily at par with everyone else and I am not even cursing at being an hour or so late. Why? The obvious was unveiled. I have seen many say that Apple has stopped innovating. Well, I won’t act like their PR guy and defend that argument but it is open for everyone to see. When all the focus of a product launch is on a new dock connector (hello Lightning) and not the main product itself, then you have some pretty tough questions to answer. When you go to courts around the world and pride yourself of innovating then you will be expected to innovate every time you are unveiling something new even when that innovation (or lack of it) is questionable.
Since carrier contracts in Kenya and many other African countries are still things we read about from North American tech blogs, the iPhone 5 will surely cost a fortune when it lands in Kenya (January 2013 if history is anything to go by). So is it worth to part with $500+ for a device where you can’t change wallpapers, rearrange those app icons, have widgets, alternate keyboards or any of the great customization that you can do on another device with equal if not better capabilities?
No microSD card support. Yawn. This was (and still is) my major quarrel with the HTC One X, the other great Android smartphone unveiled this year. Also the quarrel I had with Nokia’s new offering, the Lumia 920. Unlike last year when I was writing about the iPhone 4S, today I have had far much wider interaction with several versions of the iPhone, from the retiring 3GS, the indefatigable (and most awesome iPhone, IMHO) iPhone 4. Truth be told, not unless it is the 32 GB or the 64 GB version, the 16GB iteration of the iPhone fills up quickly if you are as appolicious and with many files that you can’t do without as me. Having external storage would’ve been very welcome. But again, this ain’t an issue to iPhone diehards.
4 inch screen. While this may be big news to all followers of the Apple cult, it definitely is a reminder to the days when Android devices had smaller displays. Get it? In an era where phablets like the Galaxy Note and its sibling the Galaxy Note II are slowly taking over with their large 5+” displays, just 4 inches is a bad joke. (Yes I know the iPhone 5 is not a phablet). Even mid-range Droids are slowly entering the post-4 inch world.
A6 chip. I’m not sure whether that chip is made by Samsung, LG or another supplier but surely we’ll have to wait to see whether it can withstand the competition (which I doubt) posed by the latest chips that recently unveiled devices are shipping with. Of course the A6 is more powerful than the A5 in the 4S.
LTE support. You know the last time man was on the moon? Of course it was not June 1969 so while you are googling up that date also google the date the first Droid got LTE support. Yeah, it was that long ago.
NFC support. The iPhone 5, just like the 4S won’t have near field communication. While NFC may not be a big thing in places like Kenya where I reside, it is a big thing in the key iPhone markets. Why it was ignored is not up to me to answer but of course this is not a big omission. The problem is the iPhone 5’s competitors have the same feature. Maybe it’s because the iPhone 6 (or the iPhone 5S) will be the first to launch with iWallet, Cupertino’s very own Google Wallet.
Another small miss. No FM radio. Of course you will argue that with online streaming you don’t need this. In fact lack of an FM radio is a feature miss that you will hardly hear any blogger of repute talk about. Surely the target market of the iPhone does not need this functionality. They can stream on Last.FM, Pandora and all those other online radio services. Plus they got iPods too so this isn’t a big deal. Well, to some it is.
No wireless charging . Good news, the new offerings from Nokia have it.
What’s my point? The iPhone 5 is simply a victim of its predecessor’s successes. Thanks to previous iPhones, a lot is normally expected of Apple product launches. The rumour mill goes on overdrive in days preceding a new iPhone announcement but if September 12th is anything to go by, let us respect the iPhone as the device that came to the smartphone world and revolutionized it and keep treating it as such. Any unusually high expectations should be bygones. Unlike in 2007 when the first iPhone came out, the iPhone 5 launches at a time when there are so many competitors, credible competitors for that matter and it just has to act its age. To be honest, the iPhone is just playing catch up to the great devices that have so far been launched. In the words of a friend, it is the “iPhone Apple refused to give us in 2011”.
This is what the editor of GSM Arena had to say about the iPhone 5:
“Honestly, I’m already tired of hearing Apple’s stale remarks how the new iPhone or the new iPod was Apple’s best thing so far. What I wanted to see today on stage was pure innovation, something that would again open new doors and make other manufacturers lose their breath in trying to catch up. Instead, what I got was a predictable phone with unexciting specs; a phone that I would hardly call cutting edge, top-of-the-line, and all those labels that usually go hand in hand with Apple’s latest…I’m more than sure that somebody in South Korea is having a big party right now.”
Sorry for the disappointment but those are my opinions laced with facts on the iPhone 4SS, sorry the iPhone 5. You can throw your punches in the comments.
PS: Not hating but I can’t wait for that lawsuit Apple was promised if it included LTE in their next iPhone.
Images: Apple website
**UPDATE 1** 13th September 2012
I’ve just read Dan Lyon’s article on the BBC website and here is an interesting excerpt from what he writes:
“To use a car analogy, six years ago the iPhone was like a sexy new flagship model from BMW or Porsche. Today it’s a Toyota Camry. Safe, reliable, boring. The car your mom drives. The car that’s so popular that its maker doesn’t dare mess with the formula.”
Dan Lyon is an editor at Newsweek and was the guy behind the humourous fake Steve Jobs blog. He was a great admirer of Steve and erstwhile a big Apple fanboy. Read his thoughts here.