The September 10 iPhone launch event from Apple proved to be a mixed bag. The 'cheaper' iPhone 5C ended up costlier than speculated. But the premium iPhone 5S has some jaw-dropping features. Karthik Subramanian has the details
Let’s face it. Apple has always been, and will probably always be, a premium brand. Save for those entry-level iPod shuffles and Nanos, the rest of the line-up is perhaps foolhardy to purchase, especially if one is stringing together a budget. (By the way, if you are prone to such foolhardiness, it becomes difficult to shrug it off. Just ask any one who has bought even a single Apple product.) Which is why I won't term the “off-contract” pricing of the iPhone 5C a complete surprise even if it disappoints many hopefuls longing for a mid-range iPhone. Though the basic 16 GB version of the phone is available for $99 under a two-year contract with U.S. telecom carriers, the 'off-contract' unlocked version has been pegged at $549. With the free-falling rupee, it is safe to assume that the cost would be around Rs.35,000. (Apple has not yet revealed its official pricing for iPhone 5C and its rollout dates specifically for India, apart from a generic “rollout before the end of the year”.)
That pretty much means the ‘iPhone 5C,’ which sports the legacy A6 chip from iPhone 5 and similar specs, save a slightly better battery, won't be fighting it out against the mid-range Android phones from the likes of Samsung, Sony or HTC. It would be priced on a par with a few flagship Android phones, which makes the entire Apple strategy look a bit off colour as far as the Indian market goes.
A positive way of looking at the iPhone 5C would be — it is the iPhone 5 at a slashed price and available in sportier colours. The blue and yellow versions are particularly drool-worthy.
iOS 7 rollout
Apple, over the years, has made it a standard practice to coincide the launch cycles of its iPhone with the launch of a new mobile operating system.
The iOS 7, which was previewed earlier this year at the World Wide Developer Congress and tweaked over the past few months, will officially roll out to iOS devices free on September 18. It will run on iPhones 4 upwards (iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5 series), iPad 2 upwards (including the iPad mini), and iPod 5th generation upwards.
Two of Apple's most iconic leaders have handled the iOS7 project — Jonathan Ive on the design front and Craig Federighi on the software engineering front — and the results have been most exciting to say the least. With its different colour and icon schemes and minimalistic design, the iOS device users will feel like they just got a brand new device once the upgrade roll outs.
Some of the Apps have also been re-engineered ground up. Especially the photos and the camera App look dramatically different and have some features that promise to bring back some of the mojo Apple seems to have lost to companies such as Samsung and HTC over the past year.
Even hardcore Apple fans will concede that some of the Android phones over the past year, especially Samsung's Galaxy S series and HTC's One series, have smashed some benchmarks set by the guys from Cupertino.
Which is why, as harsh as it might sound, the ‘iPhone 5S’ is a bit of a comeback smartphone from Apple. And the biggest surprise at the event was that the A7 chip that has premiered in the iPhone 5S has a 64-bit core, making it a ‘world first’. This was probably the only detail about the launch that did not leak online as almost everything else did.
The iPhone 5S can be considered a genuine leap forward compared to the iPhone5 in terms of hardware capabilities.
Also, Apple seems to have put in some extra effort with its iSight camera on the iPhone 5S because this was an area where the iPhone was literally clobbered by the likes of Samsung, HTC and Nokia, all of which have started sporting better cameras, and the results have been there for every one to see.
The camera on iPhone 5C works on the principle that bigger pixels contribute to better photos because more data collected by the pixels contributes to better photographs. This is pretty much the same logic used in HTC One's ‘Ultra-pixel’ camera.
The premium iPhone 5S is capable of shooting HD 720p videos at 120 frames per second, that allows users to shoot videos and re-edit them super slow. This feature alone is sure to give iPhone 5S users plenty of opportunity to put out videos online that could go viral. Also, introduced is a new dual-flash on the phone that promises to improve people’s skin tones.
The fingerprint reader technology — Track ID — also premiered on the device as an additional security feature. This was hardly a surprise because of the number of online leaks about the feature over the past three weeks now.
Interestingly, this Track ID data, which is essentially the fingerprint scan of the users that can be converted into passwords, will be locked within the phone and won't be available for third-party developers via any cloud service. This could be a huge success among consumers in the West, who are becoming increasingly vocal about privacy and security concerns.
Practically every Apple representative at the event from Tim Cook to Jony Ive kept stressing through out the event, these were technologies on the iPhone 5S that were not just there for the sake of it but for a good reason. That was the most indirect swipe at Samsung at the event. Barring one other comment from Philip W. Schiller on the iPhone being 'Android-free' there were no direct references to competition.
What's new in iPhone 5S?
- A7 chip based on 64-bit architecture
- 'Track ID' fingerprint scanning that would allow biometric password for users
- New improved iSight camera with bigger pixels, capturing low-light better, and capability to shoot 720p HD video at 120 fps. Super slow motion videos.
What's new with iPhone 5C?
- A slightly cheaper version of the iPhone, but cheaper mostly in the West where Telecom companies make bundled offers
- More sportier variant that will come pre-loaded with iOS 7 and free Apple mobile Apps - iWork, iMovie and iPhoto
What's the deal with iOS 7?
- Complete re-design of icons and colour schemes by 'Jony' Ive and team
- Much awaited features, including control centre and multi-tasking, make a debut
- Rollout starts September 18 for iPhones 4 upwards, iPad 2 upwards and iPod generation 5