The iPhone 5: Greatest ever, or ‘meh’?
All those bells and whistles are going to cost you
Apple has just lifted the veil on the worst kept secrets in tech history — the iPhone 5.
Launching Sept. 21 in Canada, the new phone is indeed larger and slimmer than its predecessors, with refined lenses, a better Siri, and LTE — aka “real 4G” support — just as the rumours predicted.
The flagship smartphone is expected to see sales numbers of at least 10 million by the end of September, according to Piper Jaffray’s analyst, Gene Munster.
Some sources are even citing it as a cure for America’s depression, as millions toss out their old phones and happily buy up Apple’s first post-Jobs iPhone.
However fascinating, that isn’t what most of you want to know about the iPhone 5. You want to know if it is worth the $199-on-a-three-year-contract hit to your strained student budget.
Well, let’s start off with a look at the physical characteristics of this new iPhone. A larger screen (a full 3cm bigger) moves the screen’s aspect ratio from the iPhone’s traditional 4:3 to the industry standard 16:9, the same ratio as HDTVs and the majority of smartphones.
With a bigger screen you get an extra row of icons on the home screen, and it is friendlier on the eyes for watching television, movies, and YouTube.
Apple did all of this while making the phone both thinner and lighter by about 20 per cent. They also installed a new A6 chip, which they claim is twice as powerful as the 4S’s A5 chipset.
The new chip is also supposed to draw less power, resulting in a longer battery life for the smartphone — up to eight hours talk, or 225 hours standby.
The other major improvement is the announcement that the iPhone 5 will support LTE, which Rogers, Bell and Telus have all brought to Calgary over the past year.
At the moment, it is only about 20 per cent faster than traditional 3G/HSPA+ coverage, though the jury is still out on whether the theoretical 150 megabytes per second is actually achievable with current technologies. Still, LTE is the currently favoured format of the future, so it does help to future-proof your investment. The iPhone 5 also comes with an HSPA+ radio, so you can still surf the net even when outside of Canada’s largest cities.
Unfortunately, Apple decided to not support Near-Field Communication (NFC). Samsung, Nokia, and Research
In Motion all currently offer phones with NFC, which allows consumers to use their phone as a credit card or share photos by tapping their phones together.
It’s a major disappointment for some that Apple has decided to not jump onto the NFC bandwagon, but at the moment it’s not exactly on many buyers’ wish lists.
What was on a number of wish lists was a better set of cameras, and Apple improved both rear and front-facing this time around. The rear camera still rocks eight megapixels, but Apple has given it an improved sapphire lens, better low-light support, and the ability to snap panoramic pictures with ease.
Additionally, the camera on the front of the phone has been upgraded to take 720p video, including new FaceTime support for video calls. There’s also improved speakers to better support iOS 6’s Siri, which is also a bonus for students as it means better voice recording quality for note-taking.
The new iOS comes with a map client that features Siri-powered turn-by-turn navigation, a new app named Passbook that records your passes — from airplane and theatre tickets to Starbucks cards — and FaceTime support over cellular networks.
However, with the good must come the bad. The new iPhone is larger and thinner than the current ones, meaning your current case won’t work with the new model. But that’s minor when compared to the new Lightning connector, which replaces Apple’s old 30-pin plug.
Unfortunately, all your iPhone and iPod docks and cables that you have amassed over the years are no longer going to work with their newer siblings. Apple is promising a $29 plug-like adaptor and a $39 cable for your own devices, but that is still something to factor into the total price.
Unlike last year’s iPhone 4S and the new iPad debuted this spring, the iPhone 5 brings some real enhancements to the table with its larger screen, faster processor, and LTE support. That’s nothing revolutionary, but that doesn’t detract from the quality of the phone itself.
It sits with the Samsung Galaxy SIII and the Nokia Lumia 920 as one of the best high-end smartphones released this year.
The 16GB model is clocking in at $199 on a three year term, or $699 unlocked, while the 32GB model rings in at $100 more, at $299 on contract, or $799 unlocked. Finally, the 64GB model comes in at an unreal $899 unlocked, only $100 less than the new MacBook Air, or $399 on contact.
At the end of the day, make certain you can afford your investment. The iPhone 4 and 4S both underwent a $100 price cut, and both older models can be upgraded to the new iOS 6.
One notable omission from the iPhone 5 is a food replicator — just keep that in mind when you’re standing in line at the Apple Store on Sept. 21.