Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the iPhone 5 - a lighter, thinner and more powerful version of its iconic mobile device, staking its claim to leadership in the red-hot smartphone market. AP Photo
They’ve been doing it year after year — a new phone, lighter, thinner, smarter. But has the novelty worn out? Is it worth shelling out more for a new-new iPhone when some say that it lacks the Wow Factor? Apple has been steadily producing its machines, no doubt innovating in its stable like few do. However, is there something called iPhone Fatigue? The new iPhone’s screen is half-an-inch longer. Is it worth paying so much more for?
For those of us who buy an Apple product year on year, there is no question. An article like this will not make an iota of difference to our purchase decision. But for others? Let us give you a couple of pointers before you ask your kind uncle across the Atlantic to send you one, or take a plunge into the grey market. I have discussed key factors below but please bear in mind that being in India, you have to be careful with your purchase as the iPhone5 is not naturally built for this market. So there are many pitfalls.
Well, obviously, this cannot go wrong, right? The first time I held it, the phone felt amazingly light. The screen is brighter and sharper, though the specs are the same as the predecessor 4S. The curved edges bring a new dimension, and the taller screen adds another line of icons and even lets you view your full week’s calendar in landscape mode. The earphone socket has moved from the top to the bottom of the phone — which some hate, but others love. The 30-pin dock connector has made way for a new lightning connector a quarter its size — and rendered most of the old docks useless without a convertor. The width is unchanged from the 4S, but feels more pleasant for one-handed use.
There is new technology here, what apple calls beam-forming directional microphone system, for higher quality sound. You can experience the noise cancellation system working — I had a friend call me while standing in front of an air-cooler. Amazingly, no ambient sound filtered through in the call, though his voice seemed slightly flattish. There are no call-drop issues that dogged former iPhone models.
Apple has also bundled a new set of headphones it calls EarPods, which has received mixed reviews. Personally I prefer the Bose SIE2 for both music and answering calls, so I won’t comment on these.
The specs are unchanged from the 4S, but Apple has replaced the plastic lens with a sapphire crystal lens, which brings greater clarity to the pictures. The camera remains at 8 megapixels, but pictures taken using the same subject and same settings show visible difference between iPhone 5 and 4S. The iPhone5 can also shoot a fantastic 28MP panorama. The front-facing camera is now 1.3 MP, allowing high-definition video calls.
Performance, battery life
One catch with a thin and light phone is the impact on the battery. In my limited test of the iPhone 5, I saw a battery life similar to the 4S. Performance is much faster with the new A6 processor, and you can easily work on photo editing and movie editing and 3D graphs on spreadsheets.
The Nano SIM
The biggest change is that the SIM card: the iPhone5 needs a really small SIM card, smaller that the micro SIM of the previous generation.
This is not available with any of the Indian telecom providers. This, in turn, implies a need for surgery. The catch is that if you damage the SIM card while cutting, you will need to purchase a new one.
This technology has not really entered India yet, though there has been a limited rollout. There is no clarity on the band of LTE that will work in India, and only time will tell if the iPhone will be able to handle that band. Anyway, it works just fine on the 3G network.
The bottomline: Lots of goodies in iPhone5, but watch your stuff.