I was bound to write about this at some point seeing as I’ve talked about it a lot on Twitter and… to people.
I’ll preface with this. The iPhone 5 doesn’t suck. It’s actually a pretty decent phone and, objectively speaking, the best iPhone yet. That goes without saying. It improves on the 4S in (almost) every way and you can see it right on the spec sheet. It’s a good phone. Let’s get the green-tinted glasses off for a second and just acknowledge that, while not competitive, Apple released a good product. Heck, while Apple’s behavior on the courts would suggest otherwise, their products tend to just exist on their own. They don’t design with a competitive focus, which is both a criticism and something that works in their favor. I digress, though.
Why is the iPhone 5 so disappointing, then? Many cite the overflow of leaks we got prior to the release which took away from the device’s thunder. That really wasn’t it for me. See, I’m the kind of guy who can read spoilers and maybe wind up enjoying the movie even more. The prior leaks didn’t diminish my excitement–what little I had–about the device. As a matter of fact, before I saw iOS 6’s meager offerings you could say I was plenty excited.
I strongly believe Apple played it really safe with this one. I might even say they played it too safe. When Steve Jobs passed away a couple of years ago, we questioned where Apple would go after him. We wondered if Tim Cook could deliver. There was a lot of mystery surrounding what Apple’s next move would be. Whatever it was, it would be Tim Cook’s first real impression on the tech industry.
When iOS 6 was first previewed it came with a bevy of features, but in the end, didn’t amount to much. It didn’t carry the same weight as, say, iOS 4 did. It was even more telling in another manner–none of the new features required any kind of a hardware overhaul. What does that tell us? Well, Apple has always been known for building its OS and hardware together. If they come up with a new feature for the OS, they upgrade the hardware to match. If there’s some tech that they want to implement on the device, they introduce a feature into the OS to take advantage of it. What happens, then, when their latest OS doesn’t seem to offer much? It means the hardware isn’t going to offer much, either.
I won’t sit here and rattle off the feature list or the spec sheet because if you so much as perform a Google search or even visit the Apple website you’d see it all. That, or you aren’t the kind to pour all over that kind of stuff because your sole interest is in the device simply working for you. The gist of it is that after two years, the iPhone 5 has just caught up in the hardware department–caught up to where competing OEMs were a year and a half ago. It may be running a more “advanced” OS (certainly more stable–give it that), but there’s nothing that puts the iPhone 5 even at par with its competitors. In an industry where advancements in mobile technology are coming in faster (you know, except for the darn lithium-ion batteries), Apple has to start playing hardball outside of the courthouse.
Don’t get me started on the litigations. I have my opinions on those and neither side will like me for ’em.
I thought the iPhone 4S was playing it safe. It came at a tough time for the company and an incremental upgrade was a better move for them at that point. When your CEO is on his deathbed, that isn’t the time to take huge risks with your flagship product. However, it’s been nearly a year since and Apple was given a chance to unveil something truly great–something that would set the standard again and make them the company to beat. It’s too bad they didn’t take the shot this time.
Make no mistake. I think the iPhone 5 is a great phone and it’s certainly the best that Apple’s launched–just not by much. Now, I don’t err on either side of the platform wars, but I’ve been a satisfied Apple customer for four years and that ecosystem definitely worked for me that whole time. I’ve run stock, I’ve jailbroken, and that not only sustained me but it was fun to be in that environment. These days, iOS has just grown stale and the hardware matches it. It’s enough to turn this long-time iPhone owner into an Android user.