It is easy to fall into a trap, comparing and analysing the new iPhone 5 in a specifications shootout with other flagship smartphones. But Apple has demonstrated over the years that specs are just numbers.
When it comes to Apple products, news tends to age doubly fast. By the time this article reaches you, and especially if you are an Apple aficionado, you have probably consumed loads of information over the last 48 hours. That is merely testimony to the game-changing capabilities of the company and some rather incredible salesmanship by Steve Jobs over the years.
Every single detail surrounding the launch of the iPhone 5 is probably up for analysis: did the phone help Apple reclaim its position as the world’s best smartphone maker in the face of growing competition? Is Apple still ahead of the curve when it comes to innovation? Has Tim Cook settled down in his role and has the ghost of Steve Jobs finally left the building? Does the master of modern design and Job’s trusted lieutenant Jony Ive still have it in him to wow consumers?
No magic revelations
One of the biggest revelations of the iPhone 5 launch is the lack of revelations. There are no magic 'reveal' moments as in the past, with Steve Jobs’ trademark “oh and one more thing”. Probably the most magical of Apple's launches was the introduction of the Apple Macbook Air that Jobs pulled out from an envelope, drawing gasps from the audience.
The lack of the so-called ‘wow factor' surrounding the iPhone 5 launch is simply because most of the changes have been pre-empted by other technology forums. The bigger display (4 inches compared to 3.5 inches of the iPhone 4) and the faster processor (the A6 is touted to be twice as fast as the A5) were anticipated. The camera on the new iPhone 5 is also supposed to be superior when it comes to taking low-light images. The design has not changed much. Though taller, it is not much bigger than the iPhone 4s. Apple believes that the width of the phone is just right to be held in one hand, even at a time when phones that are comparatively behemoth like the Samsung Note are finding a dedicated audience.
In fact, one of the legends surrounding Jobs' approach to smartphone design was that he was literally non-negotiable about increasing the width of the iPhone further than those already brought out.
One of the reasons Apple probably did not stun the audience at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco on Wednesday was that most of the changes to the iPhone 5 over iPhone 4s have been incremental. And that can only be because Apple believes it has a clear winner already in its hands.
There were two innovations though — minor yet probably game-changing in their own way. First, a redesigned earphone that supposedly took over two years of research. The official video put out by Apple featuring Jony Ive explaining the logic behind the new design of the earphones, available at www.apple.com, is testament to just how far the company will go in its pursuit of perfection. Apple's designers scanned hundreds of human ears to understand and decide what would be the perfect fit. And in true Apple style, it saw the birth of another term — ‘earpods’.
Apple has also changed its connector from its traditional 30-pin to a new 'lightning' connector. This had been anticipated for some years. The advantage of the new connector is it is reversible — a feature long-time Apple users will appreciate.
It would be wrong to compare the iPhone 5 with some of the other flagship smartphones of other companies — Samsung's Galaxy S3 or HTC's One X or Nokia's new launched Lumia 920 — purely on the basis of specifications. Apple has time and again put out devices that might appear numerically-challenged but easily outperform its counterparts in terms of functionality. This has been the core philosophy behind its close integration of software and hardware.
There is, however, one key upcoming technology missing in the new iPhone. Near-field communications (NFC) technology is gaining traction worldwide as probably the next big thing that would push for mobile money transactions, and would be capable of replacing the credit card. Apple's iPhone does not have the NFC chip yet, but there are rumours the company might be working on its own patented gateway for mobile transactions.
The company may have also missed pushing the envelope when it comes to charging the phone wirelessly, as Microsoft and Nokia demonstrated with its Windows 8 phone recently.
Apple's iPhone 5 launches at the same price as its predecessor which makes the iPhone 4s a little cheaper from now. (The iPhone 4s basic model was retailing at Rs. 44,500.) It runs on the latest fourth generation telecom network (4G LTE), a feature redundant in Indian markets where even 3G networks are unable to deliver consistently. The pricing of the iPhone 5, in the absence of a bundled telecom marketing plan like in the U.S. or Europe, is sure to make it the most premium of handsets in the market here.
Also, it is compatible only with nano sims and not the micro-sims of previous generation phones. This could be a challenge for the Indian market.