Friday, September 14, 2012

Five reasons iPhone 5 disappoints

Born to disappoint

A new iPhone is Apple's chance to drive competitors nuts, to take technological innovation to new heights and to leave the stage with a justified smug look, but as the dust settles from yesterday's launch event the new handset feels dated already. The Cupertino, Calif.-based corporation should smash the competition to bits but that hasn't happened, has it?

iPhone 5 is not the revolutionary product that could set the world on fire and just like my colleage Wayne Williams I wonder "Hey, Apple, where’s the innovation?" There is a saying that's perfect for landmark product releases: "Go big or go home" and Apple should have followed the former not the latter for what will most likely be flagship device over the next year. It's not enough to sway the current cutting-edge Android smartphones to the curb, so how can it when there will be fierce competition from Windows Phone 8 devices like the Nokia Lumia 920 or Samsung ATIV S?

The new iPhone 5 is a disappointment and here are five reasons why it fails to impress. (Ha! Wayne struggles to find five things to like about iPhone 5).

1. 4-inch display is straight from the history books. The new iPhone sports a 4-inch display with a 1136 x 640 resolution at 326 pixels per inch. It clearly bests the iPhone 4S display in terms of resolution and size, but a 4-inch display in 2012 is still subpar compared to other smartphones like the popular Samsung Galaxy S III or Nokia Lumia 920, which both come with bigger display and higher resolution. The original iPhone was a game-changer with its 3.5-inch display, but five years later and just a minor size increase is a clear sign of stagnation.

The rules of the game have changed over time, with bigger displays being better suited for web browsing, reading emails and the social media experience that is ever present in the digital lifestyle, and cramming it all on a 4-inch display is not the way to go.

2. Looks similar to the iPhone 4S. The design coming from Cupertino is (yet again) repetitive, with minor differences from its predecessor that was (again) quite similar to its predecessor. The last three Apple iPhone smartphones are very similar in appearance, begging the question: "Is Apple's design team on vacation?" Visually it looks like Apple took the iPhone 4S, put it on a diet to lose some millimeters from it's already "chunky" sides, stretched it so it could accommodate the display and changed the back a bit so there is one visual cue to separate it from its predecessor. That is, if you look hard enough to spot the difference up close.

Apple leaves similarities aside, and instead used bold statements like "inventing entirely new technology" to describe the "entirely new design", with a clear emphasis the "entirely new" factor that should sway potential buyers from thinking it's darn similar to the old one.

3. iOS 6 is no match for the hardware. If there is one good thing that iPhone 5 has over the iPhone 4S is the hardware it packs. Yet the very same advantage is not matched by a revolutionary, new iOS. Apple plays catchup (again) by offering features similar to Android, but fails to deliver one that is actually fit for the hardware -- true multitasking without any limitations. iOS 6 does not focus on iPhone 5, instead it's taking a one-OS-fits-all approach that is antiquated. Why not add multiple home screens support or even widgets? No wonder it's sipping on battery...

4. No (amazing) new tricks. iPhone 4S introduced one of the most interesting and highly-discussed features -- Siri. The virtual assistant made voice search popular and drove Google to improve its own offering into what Google Now is today. But with the iPhone 5 the inspiration runs out and what we're seeing is more or less the same software that every other iPhone is going to get once iOS 6 launches on September 19. Instead of being innovative, Apple tweaked Siri to better compete with Google Now that was introduced with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean in June, basically playing catchup to Google's mobile operating system.

As far as hardware goes, near field communication and wireless charging are nowhere to be seen on the iPhone 5, even though the Samsung Galaxy S III or the Nokia Lumia 920 have both. LTE? Plenty other smartphones already had it long before Apple introduced iPhone 5. Bottom line: no new "amazing" feature.

5. Unjustified pricing differences. iPhone 5 storage pricing differences are simply absurd. The 16GB model costs $199, which does not sound unreasonable, but the same can not be said about the 32GB model that costs $299 or the 64GB model goes for $399. That 16GB storage is insufficient when there is a 1080p video recording camera that can also take 8-megapixel photos, both of which (videos and photos) will fill the onboard storage reasonably fast to warrant going for a more expensive model. The lack of expandable storage forces potential buyers to spend 50 percent or 100 percent on the base price of an iPhone 5 to get a properly spec'd model.

Apple needs to get down to Earth with its pricing; it's unjustified considering the competition comes with expandable storage at a lower price point.

Apple Chose Wrong

Time to face the truth: as it stands, iPhone 5 is just an upgrade from the iPhone 4S, and nowhere near the smartphone that I was expecting. Disappointed? Yes, badly and I do not consider myself alone in thinking so. Apple chose the wrong ingredients and focused on minor improvements that diminish its appeal, especially so with all the leaks that pointed towards a 4-inch display months before the announcement. It's better than the iPhone 4S, but the bottom line is this: iPhone 5 does not shine.
On top of those reasons, Apple really had a chance to "wow" people with features like a burst mode for the camera or expandable storage. And what's the deal with the new connector? In one fell swoop they rendered all cables and dock accessories useless for any idiot that wants the new model.  All in all, it was nice to see so many negative comments from consumers and reviewers on the iPhone 5.  Apple seriously dropped the ball here by releasing what boils down to an upgraded 4S.  Now, I wonder what companies like Samsung will go after first: the fact that Apple copied the usage of a larger screen because that's what sells or the 4G LTE?  Everyone ready for another patent war?


  1. Sure, some people are disappointed. You can always find vocal critics of each new Apple product. But the truth will be revealed in the sales figures. Mark my words: iPhone 5 will be the most popular iPhone yet. Naysayers be damned.

    The first batch of new iPhones was sold out within 1 hour of being available for preorder.

    A Silicon Valley Business Journal survey indicated that 50% of respondents intend to purchase an iPhone 5

    Apple stock hit an all time high today. Apparently investors believe the iPhone 5 is not a disappointment.

    And how will the haters respond to the iPhone's "unwarranted" success? They'll accuse Apple's millions of satisfied customers of stupidity, cultism, or desire to be trendy. Or perhaps they'll blame Steve Jobs' reality distortion field from beyond the grave.

    1. "iPhone 5 will be the most popular iPhone yet"

      Hah, not exactly a high standard. It's pretty normal for a company's product sales to grow with new releases, in a growing market.

      But the fact is, Android massively outsells iphone, by a factor of around 4 now. Symbian was number one before that until 2011 - iphone has never been number one. Even by company, Samsung lead, with even Nokia also ahead of Apple. These are the figures that matter - not media spun articles about first hour sales (which aren't representative of total sales for all sorts of reasons).

      Plus the issue is how good a product is. If sales prove a product is good, then you agree that Android (and Symbian if we go by total sales over the years) is better than iphone; Samsung (and Nokia) are better than Apple; and Windows is better than Mac OS?

      Half of readers intend to by an iphone 5? You seriously think that after years, Apple's share will suddenly rocket to 50%? Let's go by facts ( ), not media-spun poorly-sampled unreliable surveys.

      "desire to be trendy"

      You're the one claiming that a product is good because other people say they're going to buy it - pretty much the definition of a desire to be trendy. The fact that it's not anywhere near the most popular anyway is even worse - it's a desire to be trendy, but based on false information. It's like people who think they're trendy, who end up buying Skodas. As for Jobs, I'm sure all the spinning he's doing in his grave after seeing Apple's slide in the last year (a loss in sales of 10 million in Q2 alone!) is enough to keep the RDF powered...

      How will you haters respond to the hundreds of millions buying Android, or who bought Symbian before that?

    2. Apple's share price slide is just profit taking by short term investors (it had doubled in value this year alone). It will bounce back when word gets out that iPhone 5 demand remains high despite all the attempts by haters to " -gate" it. There are still lines of customers waiting each morning at Apple stores for the daily shipment of iPhone 5s to be released.

      I don't claim the iPhone is good because it sells. I claim that it sells because it is good (not a "disappointment", as some claim). The iPhone doesn't have to outsell the entire Android cohort in order to be a huge success. Taking the lion's share of profit from the cellphone industry is sufficient.

      Contrary to the haters, Apple is not on a downward spiral producing ever more disappointing products.

  2. I like how your wording points to the popularity of the iPhone (popular does not always mean good btw) and how much money Apple is going to make. The complaints are about the phone itself and the missing features Apple fans wanted. I'm sure Apple will make money on the iPhone 5 because that's what Apple is good at.

    1. I know only too well that "popular does not always mean good". I've lost count of the times that Windows and Android fans have played the "market share" card.

      Apple fans are not at all unified in their desires. While I'm sure some fans wanted specific features that Apple omitted, many more are quite happy with the iPhone 5 as it is. And the majority of criticism still comes from those who are decidedly not Apple fans.

    2. I only played the market share "card", because you falsely played the popularity card in the first place. If you knew it was bogus, why make that argument?

      "And the majority of criticism still comes from those who are decidedly not Apple fans."

      Obviously, why would someone be a fan if I didn't like a product? Although it's noteworthy with Apple maps the immense backlash in the media from those who normally praise Apple at every opportunity.

    3. My point was that iPhone 5 sales will be higher than ever, which is the best evidence that "disappointment" is mainly in the minds of haters and click-whoring pundits. Some are claiming that Apple fans themselves are disappointed. I think that is a false generalization.

    4. "will be" now is the best evidence. LOL. Something in the future becoming "the best evidence" at the present. You're an Oracle I believe. LOL.

  3. I'm an Apple fan and disagree with every single point in the article (well, ok. iPhone memory pricing has always been a ripoff, but no one really expected this to change with the iPhone 5). Most Apple fans will love the iPhone 5 as I do. In particular, those with 2 year old phones coming off contract will find the iPhone 5 to represent a compelling upgrade in both features and performance over the iPhone 4 and earlier phones.

    The criticisms leveled at the new iPhone comes not so much from Apple "fans" as they do from media pundits and Apple haters. The fact that a small number of people are disappointed is hardly deserving of a headline. As I said, there are always some who find fault with every Apple release. The point I was making as that sales and customer satisfaction stats will prove that "disappointment" is not the general consensus.

    Let's look at the criticisms:

    1) What is the optimum screen size for a phone? Everyone has a different idea as to what this should be. Too big a screen makes one-handed operation awkward or impossible, increases weight, and makes pocketing the phone harder. Clearly no matter what size Apple might choose, there will always be SOMEONE "disappointed". The real question should be whether the tall narrow screen represents a tradeoff acceptable to large numbers of people. I believe that it does.

    2) Although Apple is often accused of using trendy styling to appeal to the image conscious, they don't radically change the styling of their products every year. When they find something that works they stick with it, and make slow refinements. There is nothing wrong with this. It means that Apple doesn't deliberately use styling changes to induce consumers to replace their products each year for reasons of fashion. (Were some people disappointed that the VW Bug didn't sprout tail fins? Probably a few))

    3) Likewise, Apple is very slow and deliberate about making changes to iOS. They consider battery life (and the associated ability to make a small light phone) to be more important than larding on power hungry features just to "wow" reviewers and geeks. IOS is not antiquated. It works. And keeping it simple and constant provides ease of use and continuity.

    4) Apple doesn't need "amazing new tricks". What it already does (especially considering its massive library of apps), more than satisfies the needs of most people. Its biggest trick (that many Android phones won't duplicate) is that it will be supported by several compatible OS revisions promptly released within its lifetime. It will also have significant resale value when the time comes to replace it.

    5) As far a memory price goes, I'd have to agree this this one criticism. Still, this one thing is not enough to outweigh the rest of the advantages of an iPhone.

    Every product represents tradeoffs (in size, weight, battery life, features, ease of use, backward compatibility, cost, etc.). Depending on your own priorities, you can find fault with individual aspects of the iPhone. Nevertheless, Apple's continued overwhelming success with the iPhone is vindication that their design decisions result in a product that finds the approval of a large and growing customer base.

    1. I can just see the marketing slogan now: iPhone 5 - better than a 2 year old phone.

      "from Apple "fans" as they do from media pundits"

      Actually, this is still of note. Usually the media give nothing but wall to wall free advertising for Apple, hyping their products even before they're announced (so it's nothing to do with them being good), and preferring to focus on the less popular Apple platform, ignoring the market leading platforms; and spinning every news item and statistic they can in favour of Apple. Despite all this help, Apple still lose appallingly to other platforms and companies.

      But if this is starting to change - even if it is the media, rather than users - that's still a significant change.

      "Everyone has a different idea as to what this should be."

      If only there were companies/platforms where you could choose from a range of sizes, rather than there only being one phone to choose from...

      Battery life - er, the iphone was the classic archetype of "putting wow tricks above battery life" and struggling to run for long. My old Nokia 5800 ran for days. Apple may have improved, but I don't see evidence that other platforms are now worse.

      Of course it's good enough for most people, but so is a much cheaper Android phone, or a two year old Samsung.

      The Apple maps fiasco showed the problem of rushing out OS releases - it's far better to take the time to test them for each device, and only release features that the phone has the hardware to run.

      You seriously buy a phone simply because it'll have better resale value? We're talking tech, not antiques, though I can see why you might be confused... The flipside is that you could get that two year old Samsung at a far cheaper price?

      "Nevertheless, Apple's continued overwhelming success"

      Here you are again, playing the market share card, despite the fact that you seem to dislike it when people point out that other platforms/companies have far greater success than Apple's. You need a dictionary for "overwhelming".

    2. When I speak of Apple's success, I don't do it based on market share. Apple's success is measured in mind share and profit share. Apple doesn't need to move more units than all of its competitors combined in order to be successful.

      Higher resale value is not reason alone to buy Apple products, but it does serve to offset the accusation of them being "overpriced".

      Maps is the only weak aspect of the iPhone 5 that I've found so far, but it is still quite usable in my personal experience. Voice navigation works great. If I need street view or a second opinion on a search, I can still get it from Google's web app. Apple's problem is with the back end data -- not a case of the hardware not supporting the functionality as you imply. The maps problem is overblown and being fixed as I write this.

      I haven't experienced any of the other rumored "-gates" (case scratches, light leak, purple haze, WiFi) in the few weeks I've been using it. So far I'm really very happy.

  4. Man, this guy Brett is really an idiot.

  5. Yeah, I find him amusing. His misguided loyalty to Apple makes for some hi-larious comments. He cannot appreciate a piece of tech if it is not made by Apple. No matter what the case, he will always defend them. I love to watch as he spins anything into "Apple is great and you haters just don't get it"

  6. Man I had a really long post here but I'm too lazy to write it again.
    Main points:
    Sales figures don't matter, I don't care about money.
    I don't care what other people like.
    By apple fanboys' definition, every popular song is the greatest song ever (i.e. innovative).
    Of course this is all my personal opinion.

  7. My post was not is not intended to prove that the iPhone is "great". The argument was simply to dispute the article by pointing out that if the iPhone was truly a disappointment to Apple fans in general (instead of just a few disgruntled bloggers and pundits), this should be soon be made apparent by poor sales. People don't rush out to buy "disappointing" products.

    But as has been the case with previous Apple products that haters reflexively criticized, the iPhone 5 shows every indication of being a massive success. This claim that Apple fans are disappointed is sort of a new twist on the same of old song. Who do they think is buying all these iPhones?

  8. Wouldn't one of the indications of being a massive success be great reviews across the board? I would think so. True, it is the same old song. Apple users are usually upset by missing features or upgrades but their love to defend Apple supersedes the usual shortcomings, glitches or defects.

  9. The real reviews are still to come. The product is not even in people's hands yet. A lot of the so-called "disappointment" in the press was based on expectations based on unfounded rumors and pundit conjecture. As is typical of Apple products, the proof will be in the actual usage rather than specs and bullet lists. Let's revisit this topic in a few weeks when actual customers have had a chance to experience the iPhone firsthand.

    Even then I suspect that there will be no convincing you, as it sounds like you are ready to dismiss any good review as a deliberate lie meant to protect Apple.

  10. I think investors are very glad with iPhone 5, it didn't disappoint them in terms of making huge sales of course.

  11. The other shoe drops. This reviewer initially panned the iPhone 5. Then he had a chance to use one for a while.

    This is the pattern we always see: Initial reports of an underwhelming product with fatal flaws indicating that Apple is doomed --followed instead by overwhelming success.

    1. *shock* Pro-Apple media praise new Apple product. Next in news, water is wet.

      I and hundreds of millions of others will go buy other products however. (And if you're saying it doesn't matter what other people think, why are you appealing to one hand-picked media article? Everyone has different points of views, and this blog is entitled to offer its own criticism.)

      Again, "overwhelming" does not mean what you think it means, or you're deluded about the state of the market. No doubt Apple will get a bump in quarterly sales like they do every year, but this year their sales then slipped massively, whilst Samsung's rocketed.

      I don't think anyone says Apple are doomed, all I see from the media is claims about how Apple will revolutionise everything and be number one, which repeatedly turn out to be false. The doom-mongering in the phone market seems reserved for Nokia (who nonetheless outsell Apple).

    2. The point of the citation was that this reviewer (Farhad Manjoo) was initially not impressed by the iPhone 5 --hardly a pro-Apple position. He has previously been critical of Apple. As evidence, I submit an earlier article he wrote damning IPhone and iPad memory pricing:

      But now that he's changed his tune on the iPhone5, suddenly he's pro-Apple and can be dismissed by haters. How convenient!

      Considering how few models of phone Apple sells, and the number of competing companies and phones it is up against, Apple does astoundingly well. That is why Apple is the highest valued company in the world.

      Over the years, Apple has been instrumental in popularizing and revolutionizing desktop computers, notebook computers, portable music players, smart phones and tablets. If anything, Apple's track record of success and influence on the industry has set them up to fail in the media, as expectations are unrealistic. Now every product announcement is expected to be revolutionary. The pundits are disappointed if it is not.

      But even when Apple plods along with incremental upgrades, they still find their products in high demand.