Did the iPhone 5 need one more thing?

ThingsThe initial reaction to the iPhone 5 may have been one of disappointment but, now that the cameras have stopped rolling, the crowds have dispersed and people quietly gone their separate ways, a new appreciation for what Apple presented has bubbled to the surface.

I originally wrote that the latest incarnation would need one more thing in order to position itself ahead of the competition, otherwise Apple would only be seen as playing catchup.

Now that we've had 24 hours to digest what has been announced is this really the case?

Well, it depends on who you talk to.

Certainly the Android faithful are very much of the opinion that devices such as the Samsung Galaxy SIII are superior due to their larger screens and quad-core processors.

As we have seen with earlier iPhone models, however, specs do not necessarily account for speed - more, the close harmony between hardware and software can have just as significant an impact. Previous iPhones have shown that they can outperform supposedly "superior" devices due to this tight integration.

Windows Phone 7 & 7.5 has also proven that a well written operating system can be extremely fast on only single core devices which, if you believe what some will tell you, should feel like wading through treacle.

Is bigger better?

Apple has finally made the move to a 4 inch screen as it probably couldn't be held off and still be taken seriously any longer. The taller device allows for a longer battery which in turn can support the power needs of the LTE chip; Apple are well-known for not including connectivity options until it can be done without sacrificing battery life.

It has been suggested, however, that the only reason Apple made the move to a larger screen was so that the device could include a bigger battery and, therefore LTE, giving the illusion of improved up-time due to technological advancement. A pretty cynical view in my opinion.

The screen may be bigger but other measurements have shrunk - the iPhone 5 is thinner and lighter. Apple has been criticised for placing too much emphasis on the minor thing such as they new Lightening connector and smaller speaker assembly but each one of these seemingly minor items has allowed the device to be thinner, lighter and sleeker and Apple should get the credit it deserves for each innovation no matter how small.

One small step

I have mentioned before that iOS6 didn't include much to set it apart from the previous version and, post launch, that is still the case. Saying that, however, the improvements it does offer mean that I would not wish to return to iOS5. Perhaps this, in itself, means that iOS6 is a significant enough upgrade after all as you don't want to be without it once it has been experienced.

There is virtually nothing that iOS6 on the iPhone 5 gives us that we can't get on the 4S, unlike Siri in the previous update, so many will be perfectly happy to stick with their existing device. The iPhone 5 hardware is certainly an upgrade but it is doubtful if many 4S owners could actually justify shelling out for the new model - I know I couldn't even if I could afford to do so. Saying that it will still sell in the many millions.

It is widely recognised that the incremental updates suit a two-year upgrade cycle; one iPhone to the next is not a big leap but it is hard to resist the upgrade at the end of your two-year plan. It is with this in mind that I said the iPhone 5 is a stop-gap between the 4S and the next big leap which will probably come in software rather than hardware.

If Apple wanted to convince 4S users to part with their hard-earned cash then, indeed, one more thing was a must but sufficient numbers will upgrade so as not to require this. Any significant software upgrade in iOS7 would, no doubt, be available for the iPhone 5 so owners need not be alienated over the course of their mobile agreement.

Setting the trend

Where devices like the Samsung Galaxy SIII seek to redefine the mobile industry with size and raw power, Apple seeks to define it with style, with engineering and quality; by the reckoning of many, the iPhone 5 is not a class defining device. This would have required further advances but there is more than one way to be a success and Apple has been pretty good at it so far.

Image by Joe Shlabotnik

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