Monthly Archives: September 2012

Apple’s iPhone 5 is bigger but is it better?

This photograph shows what it was like at the Apple Store in Manchester’s Trafford Centre at around 6pm – what I thought would have been a relatively quiet time. The store was so busy that barriers had to be put up so that potential customers could queue to try the device for themselves.

What’s new? [Features reviewed hands on in store and with the Tech Radar and T3 websites used as sources.]

– Size: At just 112 grams, the first thing I noticed about the iPhone 5 is how light it is; so much so that I thought I was holding a mock-up display version, rather than a fully working device. The size of the screen has also been increased to 4 inches, making this handset a longer 123.8mm compared to previous models.

– Camera: 8 megapixels worth of panoramic shots are a welcome addition to the iSight camera but this is only available when the phone is being held in portrait orientation. The front facing camera has been improved making it great for Skype and FaceTime calls. Although, at just 1.2 megapixels it would not be my stills camera of choice.

– Maps: Google Maps has been replaced for Apple’s own offering in partnership with SatNav giants TomTom. This means that Street View has gone in favour of a 3D flyover mode, which is reported to be good for tourist areas but less once you start exploring residential areas. Voice navigation is also possible and now Siri can guide you through the streets.

– Passbook: Apple’s version for a virtual wallet for things like tickets, loyalty cards and boarding cards that usually take up room in your pocket. Payments can’t be made but it will potentially keep everything in one place and close to hand. A nice idea, it’s a shame no UK businesses have signed up.

– 4G: Installed on the phone but not available in the UK yet. Moving along…

– EarPods: A quirkier change rather than an update is the iPhone’s new earphones.  EarPods have a bud shape, designed to fit snug in the ear canal. The sound quality is said to be superior compared to the iconic white earphones supplied with previous iPhone / iPod generations.

iPhone 5 more of an incremental update rather than a new revolutionary device. There’s not much difference from the iPhone 4S model, especially if the iOS 6 software update is installed where the new maps and Passbook capabilities will be available.

Apple have been consistently releasing new products in the autumn for some years now. With this comes eager anticipation but it can also be a let down if products don’t meet customers’ expectations. Last year’s iPad release was labelled as “The New iPad”, even though it is a third generation model. With such features as a retina display and an improved 5-megapixel camera it’s actually not all that different from the iPad 2. This is possibly why the ‘new’ version didn’t earn the label of ‘iPad 3′. Mark Pattison’s predictions before the new iPad’s release became a self-fulfilling prophecy:

iPad 3 is going to look uncannily iPad-like, and the computer giant’s constant game of conspiracy with consumers, has created something of a Gruffalo effect.

History repeats itself with iPhone 5 only having minor tweaks to their 4S model. Nobody believed the boy who cried wolf after a while and if Apple keep delivering false hope instead of fresh ideas the excitement that surrounds their products may wear off sooner rather than later.

This post first appeared over on my science and technology journalism blog.