The EFTM Analysis: The iPhone 5

Apple has a pretty good track history in creating hype, but has had to learn to live with more leaks than ever before in recent years. So with a...
Apple iPhone 5

Apple iPhone 5

Apple has a pretty good track history in creating hype, but has had to learn to live with more leaks than ever before in recent years. So with a few days to digest the information how do we feel about the iPhone 5?

Trevor: No matter how many leaked images we saw, there still isn’t anything like seeing a new iPhone appear on stage officially. This time though, there was not a single surprise in design or layout. After the ‘bar’ incident a few years back, I thought Apple was going to crack down on leaks like this. Nick, do you think the leaks take away from the hysteria around these Apple launches, or doesn’t it matter any more?

Nick: Well, it shouldn’t matter, but somehow it does. Apple has created this really unique situation with the media, in that they were so secretive for so many years that the hunger for news reached hysterical levels. That old “withholding supply to create demand” trick, if you will. The thing is that nowadays, Apple has become so large that it can’t manage every single step of the production line like it used to, so the leaks are springing faster than a collapsing dam.

Which brings us to the iPhone 5 launch. From a design perspective, there was nothing new, as you said. Everything from the lightning port to the stretched display were known well before yesterday’s event. What I don’t understand is how the Twittersphere could spend its time complaining about being underwhelmed when they knew exactly what to expect.

You have to wonder what these people were expecting Apple to produce. Did they seriously expect a “one more thing” moment? Did they expect Tim Cook to come out and say, “Oh, and one more thing. The iPhone 5 also features a built in laser beam to annihilate any patent infringing phone from a rival?”

What do you think Damo? Is it a case of Apple not delivering, or the general public expecting way too much?

Apple iPhone 5

Damo: Maybe, “Oh, and one more thing – it includes NFC!” would have been welcome. Although I say a great tweet this morning from some random person, something along the lines of “‘I really need to use NFC right now,’ said nobody ever”.

It was bound to happen though, wasn’t it? Once the company hit a certain size there was going to be no way it could control the secrets. And to be fair on Cook, Jobs’ last few keynotes failed to have that “one last thing” impact. Perhaps it’s just the media and fanboys focusing too much on the negative, because I think there were a hell of a lot of people impressed with what the iPhone 5 is. So I think it’s a case of over-hype, which will die down over time and everyone will end up buying an iPhone 5 anyway because that’s just what happens.

I thought the end product was a pretty solid effort. I like the new processor, the better maps, the bigger screen (even if it is a kind of odd shape now) and the thinner design. Were either of you two actually disappointed with what was delivered?

Trevor: I’m not disappointed at all. With reflection, perhaps NFC is still too young. Phil Schiller was quoted in AllThingsD saying, “It’s not clear that NFC is the solution to any current problem” as well as “Passbook does the kinds of things customers need today”. Perhaps. He’s right on the first point, but Passbook is yet to be proven, frankly.

Maybe 2014 is a more likely target for true tap and go payment systems?

I think in terms of delivery, Apple has produced a quality phone. Cupertino builds quality in phones like Mercedes and BMW do in cars. The Samsung Galaxy SIII is a great example of a cracking good phone in a cheap body. I’m not saying it’s bad, just that it doesn’t have the build value in the hand that an iPhone does.

Does that matter do you think?

Damo: Sorry, I’m just going to jump back in quickly. You think the iPhone is “quality” like BMW and Mercedes-Benz, Trev? Really? Wow. My iPhones have broken down without fail one year into contract each and every time. Currently my iPhone 4 home button is screwed. I think they are great phones but I would hardly call them quality to that extent.

Trevor: Yep, I stand by that – build quality is second to none. Nokia is doing very nice things with its Lumia range but certainly HTC and Samsung aren’t in the game for quality of build, in my opinion.

As for breaking down, I’ve not had a problem with mine. My wife’s has smashed twice, but that has happened to my BMW too. You can’t help accidents happening, after all. I’ve heard nothing but pretty darn good customer service response at the “dealer” too when people do have issues with their iPhones.

Nick: I think I’m leaning with Trev here. Apple are building the iPhone with premium materials and top shelf components. Most Android phones are top-shelf components, but cheaper materials, and none of them offer the complete service offering that Apple does.

But getting back to the NFC thing… I have two thoughts about it not being included in the iPhone 5. The first is along the lines of Trev’s thinking – Passbook is unproven, and while theoretically it would be an ideal partner to NFC, Apple may be waiting to see how well it works before taking it to that level.

The other thought is that Apple NEVER updates a product with every new feature people expect. Remember the 3G’s crappy camera? Cupertino is working on an annual release cycle for hardware, and they always seem to hold something back for the next generation. I would not be surprised at all if we see NFC arrive in the iPhone 5S in 12 months time.

Trevor: Notch that one up to Trev 1, Damo 0 then.

So, leaving NFC aside, I think this is a great phone. The thing that will really impress people though is the weight. To get this phone down to the 112 grams is remarkable, and that’s what people will notice when they hold it.

What do you think it is that drives people to one thing or another? Is it the look? The feel? The operating system? Or just the general appeal and hype?

Personally, I think look and feel are a huge part, but the “wow” factor that comes with Apple products makes them an accessory as much as a device.

Damo: So can either of you fix my broken Home button then, geniuses?

I think it’s great branding and marketing at the moment that drives people to Apple first and foremost. Followed by a great product. I’m not saying it’s not a great product full stop, just that the hype surrounding most Apple products is so big you can’t help but be swept away by it all. And especially if Apple keep introducing new apps that potentially make life a hell of a lot easier, like turn-by-turn navigation and Passbook, people will keep coming back even if the level of hype dulls slightly because of the leaks.

I wonder how satnav companies must be feeling right now…

Trevor: Have you been to an Apple store, Damo?

Apple iPhone 5

Nick: The thing I’m wondering is what the core selling point of this iPhone is. Is it the apps like navigation and Passbook? Because navigation isn’t revolutionary, and Passbook functionality has been done via third party apps before.

With the iPhone 4S, the selling point was Siri, which wasn’t as well received as expected (although that didn’t stop them from selling a bajillion of them). I just don’t see any killer app from the iPhone 5. I want one because my iPhone 4 is starting to get old, but not because of anything that stands out from the iPhone 5 though…

What about you guys?

Damo: Interesting point. I tend to agree. I’ll be sticking to my broken iPhone 4 for now. Although I do want a 5, but that’s mainly for hype. Trev?

Trevor: Bloody good point Nick. But we have to remember, the iPhone 4 look and design is now two years old. While in photos the 5 may look similar, it’s way thinner and way lighter so people will buy on form factor alone, and those who stuck with the 4 instead up updating to the 4S will upgrade.

The selling point will be the weight and screen. Movie viewing, panoramic photos… I can see the ads now. But in reality, at the shop front, the selling point will be, as it always is, “it’s the newest one”. Well that, and the iPhone 5 plans.

Here’s the thing though. My wife’s iPhone is smashed again, so I gave her a Galaxy SIII – many would crave for such a swift and desirable spare phone. But she is not loving it. Being on the Apple system for so long you get used to the keyboard and layout and way things work.

My point is that there are really two clear markets for an iPhone. Existing iPhone users will upgrade to the iPhone 5. Those new to smartphones can go for any iPhone, especially given the iPhone 4 is something like $450 outright now.

Those who don’t care, and just need a new phone because they are off contract, they will be sold an Android phone at the telco store.

Am I wrong?

Nick: I don’t think there’s an easy formula to decide who will buy what type of phone, although if we’re talking generalisations, my guess is that you’re probably not far off.

The other question I have for you guys is whether Apple’s decision to switch to the Lightning dock connection will alienate current iPhone users. Those who have a collection of 30-pin docks scattered across their homes and don’t want to have to upgrade every last one. Will they be looking at a streaming solution, potentially future-proofing them for a rival device? Does it bother either of you guys that your docks won’t natively work with your current docks?

Damo: As someone who has a few iPod/iPhone/iPad accessories and a lot of 30-pin connectors, it bothers me, but I knew it was going to happen so have had time to get over the rage. I’m more annoyed that Apple is trying to flog the converter for $45 or $50 or whatever it is. It’s expensive for a cable at any rate. Until I need to upgrade to the iPhone 5 I guess it’s a bit of a moot point, but I can imagine a lot of people will be quite annoyed right now.

That’s technology though, it was always going to happen. Streaming and wireless recharging. That’s the bomb.

Trevor: Yeah, it’s annoying – possibly moreso if the rumours that the adaptor doesn’t stream audio are correct and it’s really just a charging adaptor. But we can’t live in 2003 forever. Nine years of one dock connector is pretty good, and other phones have changed too, like Mini USB to Micro USB.

The future is wireless. That’s what Apple is aiming for, where you stream audio and video using AirPlay and only need to plug in for charging. I for one think the new connector is smart – it’s reversable which is in itself a stroke of genius.

All that said, Apple is always polarising within the tech community. I think that out on the street the majority don’t care for all the bickering and complaining, they just want to know how and where to get one.

This thing will be the fastest selling iPhone ever. Just wait and see.

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Nick Broughall is the Australian Editor of TechRadar.com, where he gets to indulge his passion for geekery and the lastest technology. He is also the Editor of EFTM.com.au, where he gets to indulge his passion for manliness, from sampling fine liquor to the joys of growing a beard. It's a pretty good life, really.
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