Apple has revolutionized and dominated the smartphone market since the original iPhone debuted in 2007 drawing in millions of sales just days after each release. The first model brought us mobile web and music like we've never seen before. The iPhone 3G took apps to another level, while the 3GS boosted speed and gaming, the iPhone 4 boasted a gorgeous retina screen and industrial design, and the 4S was an enhancement of everything that was great about the 4 with a better camera, speed, and Siri.
Quite a bit has changed this past year in the smartphone market and a lot of Apple's competitors have aggressively stepped up on their game with impressive products such as the Samsung Galaxy S III (which I really enjoy using) and the upcoming Nokia Lumia 920 running Windows Phone 8 (which I am really looking forward to). What is Apple bringing to the table in 2012 to compete with these?
We were already expecting a longer screen, a better camera, a thinner design, LTE capabilities, a faster processor, etc... and guess what? We got EXACTLY what we were expecting. Many will argue that Apple may have lost its edge on innovation in this incarnation of the iPhone. But what more can you possibly do to make one of the best phones even better? Let's take a look at this year's iPhone 5...
Build and Design
Months before its release, we already saw leaked photos and renders of what the next generation would look like, and quite frankly I was one of the many that were underwhelmed and laughed at the concept of having a longer, but not wider, iPhone. That said, pictures can only reveal so much, and people can laugh all they want now, but don't judge the device until you've actually held it in your hands. I am very impressed with how light, thin, and comfortable the device feels.
At first glance, the iPhone 5 looks almost identical to the iPhone 4S, so it's not so easy to tell them apart, especially from a distance since their shapes are so similar. Like its predecessor, the new model has rounded corners and a metal band along the edges. From then on, that's where the similarities stop.
The iPhone 5 weighs only 3.9oz while the iPhone 4S weighs 4.9oz, and the dimensions come in at 4.9 x 2.3 x 0.3 inches, which is half an inch taller than the 4S. This is nowhere near the size of its rival, the Galaxy S III, but the shape of the phone feels much more comfortable for one handed use. And finally, the 3.5 headphone port is now placed at the bottom of the phone similar to the iPod Touch. Even with the subtle differences in physical appearance, it is still a beautiful phone.
Apple has finally grown up from its usual 3.5-inch display and moved onto a 4-inch (1136 x 640 resolution) on the iPhone 5. Just like the design of the body of the phone, the display also looks glaringly similar to the previous version since it's only slightly longer. Why didn't the make the screen wider? Apple's justification is to keep the phone comfortable to use with your hand. I can say that I have no problems using the Galaxy S III?for the past few months, but I will admit that the iPhone 5 is actually more comfortable.
With the larger screen, you can an additional row of icons, and can view a bit more when reading emails or accessing the Web, but so far it's really nothing to get excited about. Apps that aren't optimized yet for the new screen have black bars to fill in the spacing, and will still look and function the same as the 3.5-inch screen. Apps that do take advantage of the 4 inches?get a bit more real estate, but that's about all I can say, coming from both a 4.8-inch screen from the Galaxy S III?and the 3.5-inch one?of the iPhone 4S.
Is the larger screen a welcoming factor? Absolutely. Is it a selling point that makes me want to jump ship from a larger screen or to upgrade from a 3.5 inch? Not really. Even though half an inch doesn't seem to make a difference, the Retina display still remains one of the best smart phone screens on the market.
With a slightly longer screen, the keyboard is a bit more spread out give you a little more room to type on when you're in landscape mode. In portrait mode, the layout of the keyboard is pretty much the same since the screen isn't any wider, but you do have a little more space to read on the screen. Other than that, the virtual keyboard layout is identical to the previous iPhones.
Like all of Apple's other handsets, the keyboard is easy and accurate, which can be attributed to the solid build of the phone itself. If you have small- to medium-size hands, you should have no trouble typing. If you have larger hands and depend on your phone to do a lot of writing, you may want to look at bigger smartphones such as the Galaxy S III, the HTC One X, or Samsung Galaxy Note -- all are excellent alternatives.
Other Buttons and Ports
One of the rumors on the iPhone 5 was that the device would sport a micro-USB port. That rumor, unfortunately, was proven false when Apple instead introduced the Lightning connector port. I'm going to be upfront when I say this... I hate it. I don't care that the connector is reversible. Anyone who was smart enough to use the iPhone could figure out which was the right orientation. The new Lightning port replaces the 30-pin dock connector that we have been using for many years, and which millions of accessories are designed around.
For those who still want to use the dock connector, you need to buy a $29 adapter. Unfortunately, this may not be 100% compatible with all devices, such as some cars. Car manufacturers have already stated that you may lose some functionality, such as not being able to control the music on the head unit or steering wheel. I haven't tried connecting this to my Kenwood Excelon 6690HD head unit since I don't have the adapter yet, but when connected to Bluetooth, I can stream the music but none of the Kenwood's controls are functional.
Aside from now having to replace all my 30 pin-connecting devices, another gripe that I have is that Lightning is STILL a USB 2.0 connection so it isn't any faster. No USB 3.0, and not even Thunderbolt. This is how it is, and this is what it's going to be moving forward. I'm hoping we don't have to wait 5 more years to get past USB 2.0 with an Apple smartphone.
The home button is still present on the iPhone 5, regardless of some early rumors that Apple may eliminate it. The hardware volume controls remain the same and thankfully we still have the hardware mute switch. The power button is still on top of the iPhone so pretty much everything remains the same, which is a good thing.
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