After waiting 3 months since the original announcement for the bloody thing to be released here in Korea, I finally have my very own iPhone 5 in my hands. And it’s a delight: super-thin, unfeasibly light, resulting in a feel of use that is both unquestionably iPhone and refreshingly different.
People around me asked, skeptically, what has changed with iPhone 5. On paper, little has: iOS is as it ever was, the form factor is elongated but remains essentially the same, and LTE instead of 3G. But that overlooks the two greatest new advantages iPhone 5 brings to the table. First is the processing speed, which as the Anandtech review has shown, is industry-leading (with the exception of Motorola’s RAZR i and its Intel SOC, with all that that entails) in almost every relevant category. It’s slightly puzzling that little has been made of this: Apple’s usual ‘X times faster’ claims are as ever ignored as marketing grandstanding, but with iPhone 5 the increase in power and speed is so substantial as to make it difficult to overlook. Android phones from Samsung, HTC and the like are usually given a lot of spotlight for the hardware improvements they make to their flagship devices, but these charts show that Apple’s new phone stands above them.
The other key point is the absolutely outstanding fit and finish of iPhone 5’s exterior. Apple has finally done to the phone what it did to the portable computer, when they created the aluminum unibody MacBook 3 years ago, which is to release a product with design that nobody could argue isn’t superior to every competing device in its field. iPhone 5’s finish elevates it above not just the previous iPhones but probably every phone ever released – it’s simply that good. People can talk all they like, but holding it will leave you pretty amazed at the sheer impression of quality and lightness. Just when smartphones had started to become commoditized, iPhone 5 brings back the premium touch. This for me is iPhone 5’s greatest accomplishment, and the reason why it wouldn’t be right to accuse it of lacking change.
It’s my first time using an LTE phone, and my very high expectations are met every way by the relentless speed of web surfing and video streaming on the device. Unlimited data plan is not available for LTE in Korea like it is for 3G, but even so I find it difficult to see myself going back to the slower speed ever again.
What else? Having used the previous 2 generations of iPhones, utilizing apps in the Apple ecosystem is painless and familiar, and this continues to be iPhone’s killer strength. One enduring feature that is of great importance is iPhone’s Music capabilities. As an iPod user for the past decade, managing and syncing music through iTunes is second nature to me, and the utterly seamless and logical way iPhone lets me enjoy my music means that it’s difficult to migrate to other devices. Knowing that MP3 playback in almost every non-Apple smartphone remains rooted in the dark ages of drag-and-drop and nonsensical UI, I cringe when I think of all the menial work I would have to do with my 20GB+ music in a Galaxy or an Optimus.
It’s been a long wait, and I admit to having thoughts of going Android out of sheer impatience, but iPhone 5 has been worth the pain. My favourite aspect about it is that there’s clearly a lot of thought that has gone into it to make the device feel more than just a phone. In the same way that a Dyson is more than just a vacuum cleaner, and a Breitling is more than just a watch, iPhone 5 with its aluminium finish sets it apart from the rest of plastic-bodied Android phones. No matter what your OS allegiance is, it would be hard to deny that iPhone 5 has brought the premium quality that no other current phone can match. This, along with the class-leading performance of its innards and the continuing success of the Appstore ecosystem, puts iPhone 5 at the apex of the smartphone food chain.