As Phil Schiller stood on stage to reveal Apple’s new iPhone 5, a lot of things crossed my mind. There are certainly lots of things to like about it, but I’ll admit that it’s not what I’d call love at first sight. The iPhone 4S had somehow pushed me into a rough trend of infidelity, as I do most of my smartphone use on a One X lately, and the iPhone 5 has just made me realize that I’ll remain guilty as charged.
One of the things that struck me the most, were last year’s rumors of this project, right before the death of Steve Jobs. Lots of publications told the world that this was Steve’s last masterpiece. Some even said that he didn’t devote any time to the iPhone 4S, because he was too busy dealing with the break through that the iPhone 5 had to be. I’ll admit I even read his Biography in search for details of how this phone would be, and all I found was the funny fact that Steve barely even talked to Siri.
After seeing what the iPhone 5 is, it’s very clear to me. This is not Steve’s phone. There are just so many elements in this design that make the device a complete contradiction to what Steve Jobs used to like and approve. Surely Steve made the whole company return to the drawing board with the first-generation iPhone, as to show that he was as human as all of us, and had doubts even about his own judgment. But whether he was right or wrong within his own mind, each product spoke for itself on launch day as people went crazy to try to get one.
So what if Steve Jobs was still alive today, and was sitting on stage as a retired CEO? What do you think he’d tell Phil about the iPhone 5? Do you think he’d be proud of it? After spending a couple of years covering Apple content, and after reading Steve’s biography, I have a couple of thoughts on what he would say:
Tim, Jony, this is not Apple!
Steve obviously had stronger words to express his discontent when a product tarnished the Apple brand, and the iPhone 5 pushes those buttons in a couple of ways. Do any of you remember Apple’s announcement of the iPhone 4? Remember how Steve showed the antenna holes on the border and said: “When people saw this, I’m sure that the first thing they thought, was that this wasn’t made by Apple”. Obviously he later revealed the purpose of these holes, and we all bought it back then, but what I’m trying to say is that this is an example of how Steve valued the aesthetics of engineering.
One perfect example of terrible execution is the bottom of the iPhone. If you use an iPad, a Mac or any other Apple product, you’ll first notice that everything in the design is coordinated. Have you ever seen a 15-inch MacBook Pro from the Steve Jobs era with one speaker bigger than the other? Every time I see the bottom of the iPhone 5, I can only imagine Steve saying: “This is $h¡t!” The speaker holes are very badly machined and having that headphone jack at the bottom just makes the speakers look terrible.
Speaking of that headphone jack, it makes sense to have it anywhere on an iPad, because you can use it in any orientation that you want, but the iPhone doesn’t work in all orientations. If you plan to keep the phone on your lap while you play your music on the AUX jack of your car, prepare to tilt your head going forward. This leads me back to my only frustration with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus.
Another example is the back of the iPhone. Apple products never have more than two colors on the back, and rarely do you ever see these colors in more than one area. If you own a Mac, all you have is an aluminum back with an Apple brand in white. If you own an iPad, the Apple is black. I’m trying to find some common sense in how the back of the iPhone has glass at the top and bottom, and then metal in the middle, and an Apple brand centered there too. It’s just too convoluted by Steve Jobs’ standards.
Scott, iOS 6 sucks!
Can you imagine a red Ferrari convertible with the interiors of a Buick? Exactly, you can’t! It would look stale and just boring, with a small touch of stupid. In that same fashion, the iPhone 5 packs some of the best specs in the market, but it runs a boring OS. Back in 2007, iOS was so cool that it would make any slab of plastic look great, no matter how ugly the device was. Today, iOS looks like yesterday’s software.
I’m sure that Siri has shown the world just how advanced iOS is, and in no way am I saying that it truly is yesterday’s software. The problem is that people judge a book by its cover, or as the Steve Jobs biography said, “People Impute”. Seeing a boring grid of dead icons is just a clear example that Scott Forstall has fallen into his comfort zone. Even if the OS is incredibly advanced, it doesn’t look like it is any more.
Bob, Why didn’t we leap frog?
If there’s one thing we’ve seen in the past, is an Apple that’s capable of leap-frogging ahead of its competitors when it’s late at something. An example is iCloud, which makes any other cloud service look like trash. Apple truly nailed a hit here, even though their past version MobileMe was terrible. Sadly, it seems as if those roots went along with Steve.
The iPhone 5 catches up to every spec that all the other flagship smartphones in the market have, but it didn’t show anybody anything ground-breaking. I imagine that even Samsung is right now scratching their heads because now it’ll be their job to innovate for Apple to copy. There’s no denying that the iPhone 5 is a powerful phone, but not the breakthrough we expected.
The bottom line
There’s nothing wrong with buying an iPhone 5. As I told a friend today on the phone, I own so many iOS apps and music, that I’m nailed in the ecosystem for good. The device won’t leave me a year behind any more, as the iPhone 4S had left all of us last year, but it’s not the great device that many of us were expecting.
At times when competition is fierce, Apple really needed to make this product a no-brainer. Sadly, that mentality seems to have left with Steve also. If you’re already an Apple customer, then I’m sure the iPhone 5 will make you happy. On the other hand, if you don’t own any Apple products, then I don’t think this is the best way for you to start, at times when the Galaxy S III is just as good, or better.
What about you? What do you think that Steve would say to the iPhone 5?