Today, Apple announced the new iPhone 5, along with a number of other new products. I have been asked to share my thoughts, so here is a post to do just that.
First of all, the taller screen on the iPhone 5. This is a welcome addition and the biggest reason to buy the new iPhone. I’ve played with most Android halo phones, and I honestly believe that adding pixels vertically is the best solution to making a larger display that can still be used one handed.
The iPhone 5 incredibly thin and light. 18% thinner than the 4 and 20% lighter. Thin is welcome but I do worry about the lighter weight. Aluminum unibody is perfect for Macs but I wonder if the iPhone 5 could feel too light. Heft is an important part of a product’s experience and is why I’m not a big fan of phones and laptops made of magnesium or carbon.
Another thing that worries me about the aluminum body is that chamfered edge. Cut with crystalline diamond, the execution has got to be top notch. After all, we’re talking about Apple here people. What worries me is how badly that edge is going to wear over time. Aluminum is a relatively soft metal, and mirror-like aluminum surfaces don’t last long. That sharp edge is also something that’ll display dings very well.
Apple has also replaced the 30-pin dock connector with the new “Lightning” connector. This is a great, especially because there’s no wrong way to plug in the cable.
There’s a catastrophic issue with the camera placement. It’s uncomfortable. It’s almost tangent with the part line between the ceramic and aluminum part, and the lens’s center point isn’t in line with the radius of the outer-edge of the phone. It lacks a certain “harmony” that we’ve seen in previous iPhone models.
All-in-all, the new iPhone great, but not spectacular. The addition of LTE, the A6 chip, improved camera are some of the other improvements. All good, but not jaw dropping. The iPhone 5 feels similar to the iPad 3 to me. A device that steps up in specs, particularly in display technology. But I end up feeling like even the iPad 3 was a bigger change from the iPad 2 than the iPhone 5 is from the 4. I believe that the retina display of the iPad 3 had a bigger affect in the usage of the device than the taller iPhone display with have. People will argue that the iPhone 5 is a bigger design departure from the 4 than the iPad 3 to 2, but these aesthetic changes isn’t what Apple is about. For a company that’s about fundamentally improving the actual usage of their products, they’ve done surprisingly little this time around. I didn’t expect radical change in the iPhone 5’s hardware, but I did expect more advancements in iOS6. However, we didn’t get that either. Maps, Passbook, the new iTunes, and other new features are great, but not magical. The whole situation leaves me with a mixed feeling. This is clearly the best iPhone to date. Its also the best smartphone right now, period. But it could have been even greater.
Apple also showed off a new iPod nano. I love how they’ve illustrated that this isn’t an iOS device by changing the icons and the home button symbol to circles. Interesting to note that Apple has moved completely away from the watch-face-like design of the previous model.
The new iPod touch's hardware looks beautiful (minus the ugly antenna) and I’m loving Apple’s new color palette. It also gets the larger 4” display in the iPhone 4 and a significant boost in specs. To me, this is the kind of exciting hardware design I wanted to see in the iPhone. Sure, many designers (including me) often scoff and people wanting changes for the sake “fashion” from Apple but in reality, regular consumers may begin to think that the iPhone 5’s design looks dull, particularly when you consider that the iPhone 5 will most likely be followed by the iPhone 5s.
The iPod touch comes with these really fun loops. The touch comes with a small button that you slide the loop over. Super playful. Almost reminds me of the Smart Cover’s charm or Marc Newson's work for some reason.
One of the most exciting announcements was Apple’s EarPods. They’re beautiful in form but are (surprisingly) designed scientifically. Apple three-dimensionally scanned hundreds of ears and looked for a common geometry between them. The shape they came up with is the Ear Pod. This is pretty hardcore industrial design.
All in all, the announcement left me feeling excited but not at the same level of the iPhone 4 launch, or even the iPad 3 launch. The iPhone is so mature that the improvements they are making are beginning to have diminishing returns to the actual use of the product. Apple can’t be making hardware iterations forever. Thinner, lighter, faster won't be enough next time. But there’s tons of room for stunning improvements to iOS. And I’m sure they will. After all, Apple has never disappointed me. Yet.