Pre-orders for the iPhone 5 will no doubt break all previous records, especially in the US. Locally, there are already some suggestions that informal waiting lists are lengthy.
The iPhone received mixed reaction after its launch on Wednesday night (14 September 2012). The populist view is that the new device is “boring” and “disappointing”. At the same time, most who hold these views about the phone admit Apple will sell tens of millions of them.
The key differences: the iPhone 5 is faster, 18% thinner, 20% lighter, has a (taller) 4-inch screen, has LTE (“4G”) support and has a better camera. And it has a smaller 8-pin “Lightning” dock connector. This alone is going to cause havoc with chargers, USB cables and in-car accessories. But it’s necessary. The current 30-pin cable – despite being nearly ubiquitous – is a decade old! It’s called progress. In 18 months time, we will hardly remember the current connector.
(As an aside, there are strong hints we may see a 7-inch iPad launched within the next month. Along with the new smaller device, Apple has to surely offer the tiniest of updates for the current 9.7-inch iPad to get the new dock connector integrated in time for the holiday shopping season?)
So, given the changes to the iPhone, you might find yourself asking: “is that all”?
Don’t underestimate the engineering feat it’s taken to shrink this phone further. There’s a smaller, faster chip, the smaller footprint for the dock connector (the main reason Apple’s made this significant change), touch-sensors are now built into the display (as opposed to being a layer on top of it) and the glass back is replaced by brushed aluminium (no more cracked glass backs!). It’s only the last of these engineering changes that consumers will notice and care about. The rest are invisible.
Consumers are going to pick up the phone, try it, feel it and, no doubt, buy it. Plus, logic tells us it’s no good getting a year-old device when there’s a new one available… Just how correct this “logic” is, can be disputed. Humans want the latest phone, the latest car, the latest shoes – you don’t want to be seen with last year’s phone.
With the upgrade between the iPhone 4 and 4S, the difference wasn’t visible to anyone who saw you using either device. Now though – gasp – people will know you’ve still got last year’s iPhone!
But is this upgrade worth it?
The main reason Apple’s given people to choose this phone (above the 4S), is LTE.
LTE (“4G”)-support is a big deal worldwide. Here in South Africa, as government’s spectrum allocation chaos rumbles on, the availability of LTE on the new iPhone makes absolutely no difference.
Apple could’ve added LTE-support last year, but the company seems to wait until the market is more mature before it adds any technology to the story it tells. Samsung, with its earlier-in-the-year launch of its hero-device (the S III), knew it would have a window of a few months where its phone outclassed the iPhone (4S). It would make sense to bet the situation next year will be the same.
The big improvements are in the software. iOS 6 is a big jump from version five, and it will make the iPhone 4 and 4S feel like new phones (that’s Apple’s plan after all!) But, the size (and strength) of the iOS ecosystem meant Apple couldn’t make too many changes or too big an adjustment to the iPhone just yet.
It’s the differences between the iPhone 4 and 4S which you need to weigh up when considering whether to rush out and get your name on a waiting list. Siri? It’s in the 4S. An eight megapixel camera? In the 4S.
Bottom line: If you have an iPhone 4 (or 3GS), its time to upgrade. Besides, your two-year contract cycle is up. (Don’t think that Apple doesn’t spend a lot of time considering these things.)
If you have an iPhone 4S, there’s no real need to upgrade. After all, the next new iPhone is only a year away.
Given that I have a 4S, my brain tells me I can (and should) wait till the end of next year. I just don’t need to get the iPhone 5 when it gets to SA in late November/early December.
Wait, who am I kidding?
Techcrunch columnist MG Siegler sums it up: “Here’s how it will really go: you’ll go to an Apple Store. You’ll pick one up. And you’ll buy it 10 seconds later.”