The iPhone 5 is the best iPhone ever, sure. It’s also the most disappointing.
Perhaps the days of being stunned by what a phone can do are over. Now that seemingly everyone on the planet owns a smartphone and can connect to the sum of all information from locations as remote as the top of a mountain, maybe nothing will ever seem magical again. If true, it’s a sad day.
Apple unveiled its new iPhone this afternoon. It’s called the iPhone 5. We won’t go down the path of discussing the name. Yes, it’s the sixth iPhone and no, it isn’t dumb that it’s called the iPhone 5. For the first time since the late Steve Jobs started getting on stage to introduce the world to Apple’s new products, the event was a disappointment. It felt hollow and unsatisfying. It felt like something was missing.
What was missing wasn’t Steve Jobs. What was missing was a compelling new product.
The phone we saw today was the same phone that leaked weeks ago and it’s likely that fact played a big role in why today’s event was such a dud. It’s a beautiful design, for sure, but there’s nothing surprising or interesting about it. It’s the iPhone 4, but a bit taller.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said that he planned to “double down” on secrecy to prevent his products from leaking ahead of their unveiling. He failed.
Far more disappointing than the fact that the iPhone leaked, however, is the fact that there’s nothing at all innovative about it.
The screen is larger (4 inches now, as opposed to 3.5 inches), but Android phones all got 4-inch screens over a year ago. The camera is a bit better, of course, but it’s not better in any way that really matters–we’re all used to each new generation of phones sporting incrementally better cameras. The phone can connect to a faster network–this time its LTE–but that was to be expected, too. The dock connector is smaller and faster… who cares? Same with the new processor. And the (barely) new screen technology. Everything is a bit better, but nothing is so much better that it’s notable. Nothing is new and nothing is exciting.
We saw this phone before it was unveiled because it leaked, but the leak really made no difference. You could have guessed exactly what the iPhone 5 would look like without any spoilers and been spot-on.
Gone are the days in which phone hardware was what mattered. Today, it’s the software that determines a phone’s value. And the software running on the iPhone, iOS 6, is lagging behind its main competitor, Android.
Apple unveiled not a single killer new feature in iOS 6 today. There will be no Android-style widgets on the iPhone 5–the extra screen resolution will be used for a fifth row of apps. Ho hum. There will be no innovative use of NFC (near field communication) technology, which means that the prediction that we will all soon use our phones as our bank cards and our keys looks to be delayed at least another year.
Apple’s big new feature is a revamped, proprietary version of Google Maps. Seriously. Beyond that, the only new features are inconsequential. You can now share your notifications on Facebook. Have fun with that.
There’s little doubt that the iPhone 5 will sell millions of units. At this point, iPhone (and iPad) owners have bought enough apps that they are locked in to Apple ecosystem. The iPhone 5 just might go down in history as the least impressive device that Apple has produced in the 21st Century, though. Even the semi-disappointing iPhone 4S had one notable new feature, Siri.
What does this phone have going for it? It’s called an iPhone. That’s about it.
And that’s disappointing.