Is the iPhone 5’s design still cool enough to warrant another iteration?

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If you watch or participate in any of Apple’s keynotes, you’ll always here the words: “Amazing, iconic, beautiful, cutting-edge, gorgeous, etc., etc.” Any salesman will stand in front of you to try to sell you their product, and in some cases, they’ll do so without believing in it, simply because, like everyone, they too need to make a living. Still, there are some products that deserve praise, and most of the Apple products we’ve seen in the last decade are on that list.

Still, you’d be amazed at the fact that I wasn’t too happy with the iPhone 5 when it was announced. I even wrote an editorial about what Steve Jobs would think of this device, since hey, I didn’t find it all-too “amazing”. There were a lot of things that I didn’t like, which include the odd placement of the headphone jack, or the use of glass on the back in odd symmetry with the aluminum. I’ll admit those thoughts remained with me until I actually received my device a couple of weeks later.

If you watch our After The Buzz on the iPhone 5, back then and even now, I still feel that it’s one of those devices that you have to hold in your hand to like. I’ve never been a fan of the idea that if you want to have a great phone, you have to like the fact that it’ll also be a big one. If you use your phone for a lot of email typing, like my case for example, there’s nothing worse than using a big device that’s heavy on your hands. The iPhone 5 solved that problem for me, since even though it lacks much of the horsepower that many Android phones have today in paper, it plays Asphalt 7 better than any octa-core smartphone in the market.

iPhone4S-PocketnowThat said, I won’t lie to you in the fact that I would’ve preferred that Apple gave me a stretched iPhone 4S instead of the iPhone 5. The reason mainly is because I disagree that aluminum is a good material for smartphones. In the case of tablets and computers it makes sense because companies can use denser sheets of metal to make the product more durable, but in the case of the iPhone 5, there was just no way to keep those chamfered edges looking chamfered. I did my best to baby it, since I hate using cases, and even on the times that it fell while in its sleeve, I dented it all around, and even the Apple logo got heavily scratched. Sadly all this happened after I filmed the After The Buzz, but Brandon’s durability report can tell you more. Overall, the glass and stainless steel of the iPhone 4 and 4S did a better job at remaining pristine with regular use, when compared to the iPhone 5.

So now that the world is full of iPhone 5S leaks, I’ve ask myself if this is really a smart idea? Is a beefed-up iteration of the same phone going to keep Apple in the spotlight or not? It’s really a tough topic, and a very subjective one. My opinions are still divided, so I’ll give you my thoughts on why this is both a good and a bad idea:

Why the iPhone 5S is a bad idea

Do you like aluminum phones? I do and don’t. I’ve loved aluminum on HTC phones for the longest time, and that goes back to my original Compaq iPAQ H3630 back in the day when Apple was still struggling economically. For me it was interesting to see Apple go from the aluminum design of the original iPhone, to the plastic of the iPhone 3G. Still, if you saw the original iPhone after a couple of months of use, you understood why. The device was a scratch magnet, and there’s just no way to fix that on anodized aluminum, which also plagued the phone with cellular reception issues.

My two biggest disappointments with the aluminum iPhone 5 are that the chamfered edges are code for “look for dents here”, and also because the phone runs hot depending on your cellular reception. If you email heavily, a hot phone is uncomfortable, and I’m not saying that plastic phones don’t heat up, but heat is naturally more intense on metal than on plastic. I know many of you disagree with plastic on a phone, but I still feel that matte polycarbonate designs like the Lumia 900 (notice the old model), and the Moto X, or the Glass of the Nexus 4 and iPhone 4S will provide you with a better experience than glossy plastic or aluminum.

Why the iPhone 5S is a good idea

gold-iphone-5sNow, there are a couple of reasons why it makes sense for Apple to continue their current design. Regardless if I like or dislike aluminum, there’s no denying that the iPhone 5 feels better in the hand than most of the smartphones in the market. Some argue that the Galaxy S III and S 4 are just as light, which in sheer numbers is close enough, but weight distribution and ergonomics play a role that’s just as important as the weight of a product. I have big hands, and for me, touching the four corners of the iPhone 5 is just as easy as doing so on the 5-inch display of the Xperia ZL, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have to fumble with the ZL to do the same thing that I can do with the iPhone without effort. I agree with Phil Schiller in his statement that anybody can build a more specs on a bigger phone, but to do so on a thinner and smaller device is truly challenging.

The fact of the matter is that a phone is a tool, not a painting. Phones were designed to be used on a daily basis, not just admired because of their proportions. In a day and age when most of us have tablets, and these can give us a video experience that’s superior to a phone, I don’t plan on buying a phone just because the big display will allow me to watch video more comfortably. Each product has a purpose, and even though you can ride on your bicycle to the next city just as well as you can with your car, it’s clear that only the car was designed for long rides. I’m not saying that big phones don’t do work well, since I love my Galaxy Note II, but that said, I’ll admit that it is a chore to try to use the device when I need to respond to a quick email while holding my computer bag in the other hand.

Sadly, the iPhone 5 seems to be the only defender of the phrase “one-handed usability”, and if people didn’t really care about it, the phone wouldn’t sell millions of units. On the other hand, if Apple keeps the same design, those of you that own an iPhone 5 will actually be benefited. Your current device won’t look old for another year, but if you decide to upgrade, all your cases and accessories will still be usable.

The bottom line

The iPhone isn’t perfect, and we all know that. Tony and I still juggle with the same thought that there is no such thing as a perfect smartphone, and in 2013, that’s even more evident. When you see devices like the Nokia Lumia 1020, the HTC One, or the Moto X, it’s clear that this has been a year of experimentation. A lot of these moves have been bold and promising, but that doesn’t make a product perfect sadly. We wonder if Apple will experiment and follow the same trend, or if they’ll stick to what they know with the iPhone 5S. Regardless of what they decide, 2013 is clearly the year of metal when it comes to phones, and if the leaked photos are correct, the next iPhone will continue with the trend.

I still debate if using the same strategy or moving away from it will be a smart idea. It’s hard to say yes or no since I still have a love and hate relationship with the iPhone 5. Do you think either is a smart move? Let us know in the comments down bellow.

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About The Author
Jaime Rivera
Jaime has been a fan of technology since he got his first computer when he was 12, and has followed the evolution of mobile technology from the PDA to everything we see today. As our Multimedia Manger, he’s been in-charge of growing our YouTube hobby into one of the biggest video channels in the industry. When he’s not building one of our videos, or filming our Pocketnow Daily, he can be found in his second biggest passion, which is running and fitness. Read more about Jaime Rivera!