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IT has been nearly 3 weeks since the launch of the iPhone 5. This device , needless to say, was highly anticipated the world over by tech enthusiasts  and  the  non-tech savvy public alike. An iPhone launch is a highly watched, scrutinized and analysed by the tech and non-tech press unlike any other event. Apple, a relatively new entrant into the smartphone world, has defined the modern day internet-centric smartphon. Thus, the iPhone 5 , prior to its release, came with the expectation of that “One more thing …” phrase that a certain Steve Jobs used to utter before that “Boom” moment.

Much has changed since over the last year. Steve Jobs is no longer with us, Tim Cook is Apple’s CEO and Apple is now regarded as the new Galactic Empire amongst the tech savvy public. The latter moniker was once reserved for Microsoft, which oddly enough, is now regarded as the underdog. One should never underestimate Microsoft but that is a topic for another day.

This is NOT a review of the iPhone 5 but a post expressing my general thoughts on the various aspects of the phone and the topics surrounding the phone.

The unveiling

The iPhone 5 announcement was underwhelming. There is no other way phrase it. It was partly the fault of the news hungry tech media revealing every detail of the device prior to its release. Unless you don’t follow tech news regularly, you would have been pretty impressed by the device upon its  unveiling. The other factor is the lack of the Jobs factor. The latter is permanent and whether you love him or loathe him, he does know how to make a slick presentation.

The presentation was largely competent bar a certain Scott Forstall, Senior VP of the iOS software division. He was reading his demonstration off a note book!

The device

The iPhone 5 has the similar design DNA of its iPhone 4 and 4S predecessors. Jonathan Ive, chief design architect behind the iPhone, commented on evolving the design rather than turning it on its head. A post has commented on the iPhone 5 being the Porsche 911 of smartphones.  It is an iterative refinement of design. This is not a bad thing, but in a mobile device market yearning for something different every season,  this approach is risky. Apple has already been derided as having lost its edge and with ongoing iterative design changes, it is easy for it to labelled as such.

Whilst it appears similar to the iPhone 4 and 4S, the biggest noticeable physical change is the increase in screen size to 4 inches. I am certain that this is Apple’s way of keeping up with the competition and the trend of increasing smartphone screen size. That said, screen has been made longer, maintaining the icon resolution and density. Older applications will work with the new screen, albeit with two black bars on either side of the screen – letter boxing.

The iPhone 5 is now almost all aluminium and is as thick as the band that surrounds the edges of the phone. It has been widely said to be lighter and this is something that I look forward to feeling when I see the iPhone 5 in the flesh.

A new beginning

The iPhone 5 has been said to have been designed from the ground up. This is not immediately apparent but dig deeper into the technical specifications, there is more to this phone than meets the eye.

The A6 processor is the first fully Apple designed processor and is the realization of Apple’s earlier acquisitions of two semiconductor companies. This, I feel, is the start of a process that may trickle to Macs in the distant future. Just maybe.

The Lightning connector is the new proprietary port replacing the 30-pin dock connector that has served the company well for the last 10 years. The connector can be reversibly inserted and there are some  technical  ruminations regarding the port. Interesting. However, at the moment, the switch to this proprietary port has been met with much criticism. I met someone who commented that Apple was behaving in a monopolistic manner. The environmental impact of this new port has also been raised. That said, the latter point is hypocritical as any form of tech purchase puts a burden on the environment.

Apple is charging USD 29 for lightning to dock connector adapters. They should have been providing these adapters for free. Plus, they should be opening the Lightning connector standard to 3rd party manufacturers for rapid and widespread adoption of this new standard. It is OK for for Apple to exact fine control over their proprietary connector. However, charging (no pun intended) for this change is not exactly a nice thing to do.

The components are smaller in every way and the SIM card has not been spared. The iPhone 5 is the first phone with the nano SIM standard. Malaysia has already begun placing out nano SIM offers in anticipation of the device. It is no doubt a pain to shift from one phone to another as using a  SIM adapter is not the most pleasing of tasks.

Apple Maps : You’re driving on the wrong side!

Apple Maps has been derided, parodied and lambasted by nearly every tech related report over the last few weeks.

“Steve Jobs would never have released this feature”,  is a popular phrase that one can cut and paste from one tech post to another.

Tim Cook has issued an official apology which has mildly calmed  the critics.

The inalienable facts are as follows:

Fact 1: Apple needed to release this software to start the process of taking control of its mapping functionality from Google.

Fact 2 : Google Maps is superb but it took awhile to get to its current state.

Fact 3: Whilst Fact 2 is valid , consumer expectations on mapping has changed and as such, Apple faces an uphill battle in this area.

Fact 4: Apple chose a bad time to release iOS Maps but it was a now or never situation for them.

Fact 5 : Apple will improve this feature.

iOS 6

iOS has always been lauded as having a simple , elegant , “it just works” interface. Version 6 does not stray from that mantra. iOS 6 is an incremental upgrade and the changes to this mobile OS appears tame in comparison to he changes seen in Android from version 2.3 to version 4.1.

My reasoning for this incremental change is this: Apple needs to keep three generations of iOS devices in parity with their software/services offerings. Pushing the software into the far reaches of the beyond will run the risk of out dating existing devices quickly. A two year cycle seems about right when it comes to upgrading an iOS device. Even the venerable iPhone 4 gets an iOS6 update (sans Siri and Flyover for Maps) and not many device makers can boast that level of device/OS parity.

Google’s business model with Android is fundamentally different to that of iOS. It is a highly heterogenous platform where one can a mix of devices (including treadmills) running different versions of Android. From Google’s standpoint, it wants Android to be ubiquitous. The Nexus devices are the chosen ones that receive prompt software updates. The high end Android devices such as the Samsung S3 guarantees one official update to the current version of Android. Beyond that, companies are less inclined to provide the user an official update as they are more keen on selling their latest device. This is the Android way and as the saying goes, “There is more than one way to skin a cat”.

Both business models have their merits and downsides. Android is already the dominant mobile platform and is likely to scale greater heights with the increasing number of devices.

iOS faces a more competitive environment and it will be interesting to see how it fares over time.


It appears that the iPhone 5’s aluminium band and back is prone to picking up scratches. This is more prominent on the black version of the device.

Phil Schiller, Senior VP of marketing has given a rather deadpan response saying that this is “normal”. A rather flippant response but hey, if you ignore this issue, it could be forgotten over the next year. Possibly, maybe.

The sales figures

Apple posted pre-orders ranging in the millions over the first weekend. It appears that despite the criticisms of the device, the public at large have responded well to the iPhone 5.

There is no doubting that the iPhone 5 will be a massive seller for Apple.

I wonder how long Apple can maintain these staggering blockbuster sales figures.

The reviews

The reviews have largely been decent to excellent. There is no doubt that the device is of premium quality.

The common thread that runs through most of the reviews is this: Whilst Apple has possibly made the best iPhone to date, the competition has caught on and there are other viable options in the market.

The following are the links to some of the reviews:

The Verge



Phones Show

Closing thoughts

The iPhone 5 a highly refined smartphone and is likely to be refined by Apple in the years to come.

Apple has shown early signs in its bid for complete independence in the hardware and software divisions of their company. Case in point- the A6 processor. Apple excels in hardware design but they are not the best when it comes to cloud/social media software services. Just think MobileMe and Ping. The challenge that Apple faces is the development of software services to rival those offered by Google. Google excels in this arena and they will likely remain in pole position for a long time to come.

The update cycle to the iPhone has become  predictable. We know that the iPhone 5 form factor will be refined with the iPhone 5S and that the next hardware jump will happen in two years. The positive side this iterative cycle is that iPhone users know that their device will be up-to-date for over the course of at least two years. The negative side is that there is a risk of losing customers to other platforms and phone manufacturers. Samsung, Nokia and HTC release multiple devices over the course of a year. There is a high likelihood that a feature rich device like the high end Samsung Galaxy series will prove more attractive to those looking to upgrade their handsets.

As the years go by, I am not entirely sure if the iPhone can sell in massive numbers as they have been over the past 4 years.

My wife, who glanced at the images of the iPhone 5 said that it looked only mildly different.

She followed that comment by saying, ” For Apple, it’s a marathon”.

She couldn’t have more accurate in her assessment of the mobile world space.