iPhone 5: Some thoughts

Now that the hoopla has died down a little after the iPhone5 announcement on Wednesday, the critics and pundits have largely spoken. To many it seem, the phone was a disappointment. But was it? And what did people expect from a phone launch anyway?

So, here are my thoughts on some of the major features of the newest iPhone family member:
Display. After the success of phones like the Galaxy SIII it was almost inevitable that Apple would have to to do something with the iPhone’s existing display size. It also mean that a move for the 2×3 aspect to 9×16 wasn’t too much of a shock. The fact that, from a developer’s point of view, the aspect is not going to be a major issue in transition, is also welcome. Possibly ore welcome than having to wrestle with a million and one screen sizes in the Android Store.

Camera: Disappointing. It’s being trumpeted as an improvement, but most of that is software. The camera optics (8MP) are basically unchanged form the 4S. The front cam and video capture is more impressive though. The camera was barely spoken about, which speaks volumes.

4G: Unusually, in the US, roll-out of 4G networks has started well before the UK. The introduction of LTE hardware is welcome and brings it in line with its competitors. not to have shipped with it was unthinkable. Unfortunately, only having one network being able to provide that 4G service pretty much st launch might cause trouble. I can’t imagine O2 or Vodafone are that happy,, and 3 is definitely unhappy about ee being given such an advantage by the regulators.

iOS6: Good. There are still some annoying quirks, such as the limit on folder items, but there are plenty of improvements in iOS6 that are welcome: Do Not Disturb mode; instant “not available” messages when busy; better notification management; a better browser. And this is before we even discuss Maps, which is great. Siri on my iPad 3 works a treat and even for a beta version, the whole thing seems like move on, albeit not a revolutionary one.

Lightning: If they were going to make the phone thinner, the old 30 pin connector didn’t cut it. There is going to be some outcry about transferring accessories  and buying adaptors. Perhaps Apple should shift them with the phone itself. I’ll reserve judgement on the earbuds until later, but they can;t help be better than the old phones, which can’t have fit a single ear known to man.

NFC: The big thing that was missing. NFC was heavily expected, but in recent months, there has been some concern about the security of the NFC stack. Phil Schiller’s |explanation” for why NFC didn’t make the iPhone employed a fair amount of handwavium, but I don’t see this as the big problem that many do. Why? Because of Passbook, that’s why. Google and Nokia have both failed to gain any real traction with their NFC roll-outs. Why? Because NFC needs hardware, and readers cost money. The great thing about Passbook is that the hardware overhead is minimal;, and the barcodes can be read by optical readers, which include phone and tablets. Much cheaper.  Apple also haven’t complained about passk.it roling out an android version and promising one for Windows Phone 8 soon. And the structure of a .pkpass file is fairly simple too, so easy to generate and update. What is worrying for Nokia and Google is that several large companies are trying this out already, and it may gain traction, leaving Goggle Wallet in the cold..

The smartphone market is changing. Back in 2007, the iPhone was ground-breaking and new. now, the market is mature with many competing and strong products. he hope of Apple pulling something extraordinary out of the hat yet again is just not sustainable. However, there are positive choices for the consumer. Apart form iOS6 obn iPhone 5, older models are going to be cheaper, Android on devices like the Galaxy SIII is competitive and even NoWin’s latest Lumia version has things to recommend. ON top of this, HP CEO Meg Whitman tells the worlds they’ll have to offer a smartphone, n spite of the fact they had a platform they chose to throttle. I make no secret of my enthusiasm for WebOS, which I think was a beautifully designed piece of work. And what did they do with it? Oh dear!

The fact is that now, the hardware arms race is about even, so the differentiator comes with OS ecosystems and added services. Microsoft are playing catch-up, Google are too, but they are less far behind. Apple dominate. you choice of phone is now more about which ecosystem and toolset you want to buy into. And with competing features here too the choice rapidly boils done to personal preferences rather than any discernible technical superiority. Come upgrade time, I’ll probably get a 5, but that’s because it fits the way I work . Others will not agree, and for them other phones might be a better fit. The iPhone isn’t a miracle product, but it is a very very good package. And one which his likely to keep Apple near the top of the tree for the foreseeable future.

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