Was the Iphone 5 a disapointment?
When looking at the impact of the iPhone 5, it is important to remember the context of the market situation into which it has been thrust, as well as the history of the company that created it.
Back in 2007 when the original iPhone launched, Apple could rightly be applauded for creating a truly innovative and boundary-smashing smartphone. At the time, Nokia was the world’s most prolific mobile manufacturer and was the only real company dominating the smartphone market.
Smash cut to five years down the line and Apple is selling more iPhones than it can produce, while Nokia is watching as its market share evaporates and it has to rely on software produced by other companies, in order to hold onto any kind of competitiveness in the smartphone industry.
So while Apple has managed to establish the iPhone as the premier smartphone brand over the years, with its iOS software and associated services helping to keep customers coming back for more because of its locked-down nature, it is no longer the underdog, but the dominant force, with much more to prove.
Last year’s iPhone 4S was a definite disappointment for some fans, because its hardware was on the surface, almost identical to that of the 18 month old iPhone 4 and the few advances, like a dual core processor and half-finished Siri, were not necessarily seen as significant enough to warrant an upgrade.
With the iPhone 5, Apple has had to up its game and stay in line with the market, in which it is no longer a groundbreaking innovator, but a majority stakeholder that has become accustomed to playing it safe, at least in some respects.
What makes it possible to perceive of the iPhone 5 as being a disappointment is the fact that Apple is playing catch-up to rivals and dealing with a closely contested fight at the top end of the smartphone market.
Its biggest threat is Samsung, which has overtaken other companies to become the world’s most prolific mobile manufacturer. The Samsung Galaxy S3, which launched this spring, is seen as the device that the iPhone 5 now has to equal, whereas in the past, it was Apple that lead where others followed.
The iPhone 5 has a larger display and a higher resolution, if not a higher pixel density, than its predecessors. But at four inches across the diagonal, its screen is still a long way short of matching the 4.8 inch, 720p Super AMOLED expanse of the Galaxy S3.
The iPhone 5 also has a new processor known as the A6, which Apple claims to be twice as fast as that found onboard the iPhone 4S. But the Galaxy S3 features the Exynos processor, which has four physical cores, rather than two and is clocked at 1.4GHz, rather than the reported 1GHz rate of Apple’s device.
All of these numbers and figures are relatively meaningless if they do not translate into a valuable user experience and in this area too Apple is perceived as having let rivals catch up with and overtake it.
iOS 6, which is backwards compatible with the iPhone 4S, 4 and even 3GS, still looks largely identical to the platforms that have come before it. The iPhone 5′s display gives you an extra row of icons, but these are still lacking the real time info-delivery capabilities of Android’s homescreen widgets, while users can forget about getting any kind of deep customisation when they choose an Apple device.
So is the iPhone 5 really a disappointment? When you examine it on its own merits, without the weight of history or market context putting pressure on the situation, then it still looks to be an excellently designed, powerful smartphone, which can keep long time fans happy with more of the same.
On the other hand, the competitiveness of today’s smartphone market means that customers can get an equally compelling experience, without paying a premium to Apple if they look elsewhere.
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