Thursday, September 27, 2012

My completely superfluous, unsolicited and uninformed review of the iPhone 5

First, some background:
I have been using my 3GS since it was released in 2009. It was my first smartphone. I have come to realize that there is never going to be another product that will have the same wow factor for me as what I experienced when I first started using the iPhone 3GS. The iPad 2 came close, however, especially when I started using it to sketch and actually produce some really high-quality artwork on it. When the 4S dropped last year, I could have upgraded, but chose not to for a couple reasons: my 3GS was still performing reasonably well, and I wasn't initially all that impressed with the 4S. My wife did upgrade, and I was floored by the camera and Siri. I remember texting her while thinking to myself, "I should just be talking to my phone, but here I am thumb-typing." I had decided, however, to stick it out until the next iPhone, and I stuck to my guns. Over the course of the next year, my 3GS rapidly decreased in functionality. It became slower and slower, and when the iPhone five was announced a few weeks ago, I knew I was going to upgrade.

I stayed up until midnight on launch day, and ordered it that first hour, thus ensuring that I would have my brand spanking new iPhone five the very first day it was available. I can honestly say that I have not been "wowed" like this since I first opened my iPhone 3GS. It is super slim, super light, responsive, clicky, fast, and a delight to use. All my apps work amazingly fast, and my pictures look great, and load times and download speeds are I phenomenal improvement over my old 3GS. By waiting an extra generation before upgrading my phone, I increased the probability that I would be impressed with the iPhone 5. I am so glad that I did.

The iPhone five is also a beautiful little piece of technology. I ordered the white and silver version, and after a week in my pocket with no case it still looks flawless. The screen quality is also flawless. This is my first "retina" display, and I am floored by how pretty and clear everything looks. There is even noticeably less glare and more information on the screen whenever I look at it (excepting those apps that have not made the transition to the 16:9 aspect ratio), and web surfing in landscape is fantastic. The larger screen allows everything to be a little bit bigger, including the keyboard, which is important for a guy like me with large hands and thumbs.

As far as the phone itself is concerned I could not be happier. Call quality has been great. I have not dropped a call all week. The external speakers seem like they've been improved dramatically ; the speaker function on the phone is much louder and clearer. Speaking of speakers, the new ear pods are a dramatic improvement over the rather pathetic Apple earbuds of precious generations. As a phone and as a music player, the iPhone 5 performs far beyond my old 3GS.

iOS 6 is also an improvement, even considering that Apple Maps is not nearly as comprehensive as Google Maps. Facebook integration is great, shared photo streams means I don't have to worry about emailing my wife every time I take a picture of our daughter, and turn-by-turn navigation is a godsend. I do miss all of the detail Google maps has, but the ability to have my directions from one point to another spoken to me is totally worth it. Yelp integration into the maps app is quite useful and helpful.

The only frustrations I have had regarding my new iPhone were that UPS didn't deliver my phone until after 9:30 PM on Friday night, and that, for whatever reason, my SIM card was crappy and needed to be replaced before I could make or receive calls. After 4 hours on the phone with 5 service people at AT&T, someone finally told me to go to the store and get a new SIM. I waited in line for a few minutes, got it, and I've been thrilled ever since.

So far, I have been unaffected by all the various "-gates" the tech blogs keep referencing in their transparent attempts to create some kind of news controversy and get a few more hits. So far, Apple Maps hasn't lead me off any bridges or into a park when I wanted to go to the airport. "Scratchgate?" Please. People trying to keep something they use dozens of times every day in pristine condition strike me as somewhat delusional and petty. I scratched the back of my iPad within days of receiving it. This did not reduce my enjoyment of the device even an iota. Most of the scratches on the plastic back of my 3GS came from the case I used for 2 years, and for all the times I dropped it, it never stopped working. Chips and dings just added character in my opinion. I expect that at some time in the future, I will scratch my iPhone, but that hasn't happened yet, and when it does, I'll probably say the same thing I said when I spilled a box of gooey, hot, Krispy Kreme donuts all over the floor of the first brand new car I ever owned: "Shit. Oh well. One less thing to worry about."

Have I left anything out? Oh yeah! The new connector! "Lightning." I can no longer plug my iPhone into the Bose sound dock my wife surprised me with for Christmas back before AirPlay was so ubiquitous. Well, that's okay, because I still have my old phone and it is still loaded with my music, podcasts, and Pandora. Now I still have access to my phone when I'm listening. The "Lightning" connector works wonderfully. Plugs in every time. No fumbling around in the dark, no squinting to decipher which side is up (I'm talking about you, Kindle... Thank God I only have to plug you in every month or so), and no more pocket lint in my iPhone's charge port!

I am totally satisfied with my iPhone 5 and would recommend it to anyone who is eligible for an upgrade. I'll have to see if it holds up as well as the 3GS did. Much can change in three years. I'm pulling for Microsoft to come from behind and give us a viable third option with what I believe is, in its bones, the best mobile operating system available; I just need to see a stronger ecosystem first. For right now, Apple is the best there is at what they do, and what they do best is very, very pretty.

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