The iPhone 5 Has Received an Extraordinary Reaction in the Press

Posted on September 19, 2012

MG Siegler makes the strongest, most direct point:

I really do believe this is the best iPhone upgrade that Apple has done yet (besting the iPhone-to-iPhone 3G jump and the iPhone 3GS-to-iPhone 4 jump). As such, it’s the best version of the iPhone yet. By far.

This article will discuss some of the comments from the tech-press on the iPhone 5 and what it means for the smartphone ecosystem, and how to understand Apple’s approach to improving the iPhone.

This praise from MG is certainly big, and to me very unexpected. The iPhone is clearly now on an evolutionary path from re-imaging mobile phones to generational improvement. No one, myself included, really expected a big jump from Apple, but according to MG that’s what they’ve delivered.

Jim Dalrymple from The Loop spent a week using the iPhone 5 and considered how it effected him. This is his thought on the design (emphasis mine)

That has been my takeaway from the design of the iPhone 5 — small design changes that make for big user experience improvements. It’s important to remember that while the changes on the outside may be small to the naked eye, the changes on the inside are huge. Every major component of the iPhone has been changed in one way or another.

The most important point of Apple’s larger iPhone screen is that it’s not too large. I know that sounds strange, but bigger is not always better…. This is a device that we use on the go, with a coffee in one hand and an iPhone in the other.

David Pogue at the New York times tried really, really hard to find something that he didn’t like about the iPhone 5. It wasn’t easy, but he always tries to deliver balanced journalism, so had to talk about the iPhone 5’s negative points:

So far, so good. But now, the third point, about universal compatibility… These days, that decade-old iPhone/iPad/iPod charging connector is everywhere: cars, clocks, speakers, docks, even medical devices. But the new iPhone won’t fit any of them.

It’s true that many people with investments in accessories will be left slightly disadvantaged because Apple changed the dock connector. But frankly, it’s a good change. No more will there be fiddling around in the dark trying to get the connector the right way around.

Many iPhone 5 customers will judge that the $29 dollars to buy an adapter is much less than the cost of buying a new accessory; and will be happy each time they slide that new lightening connector into their phones, thinking about how much better it is than the previous one.

Pogue also has a great summary of the competition versus the iPhone 5:

Should you get the new iPhone, when the best Windows Phone and Android phones offer similarly impressive speed, beauty and features?

The iPhone 5 does nothing to change the pros and cons in that discussion. Windows Phones offer brilliant design, but lag badly in apps and accessories.

Android phones shine in choice: you can get a huge screen, for example, a memory-card slot or N.F.C. chips (near-field communication — you can exchange files with other N.F.C. phones, or buy things in certain stores, with a tap). But Android is, on the whole, buggier, more chaotic and more fragmented — you can’t always upgrade your phone’s software when there’s a new version.

That’s an excellent summary of the competition, and why the iPhone remains the best smartphone on the market today.

John Gruber is blown away by the build quality of the iPhone 5:

I don’t know how else to convey the niceness of this thing. This iPhone 5 review unit is the single nicest object in my possession. I own things that cost and remain worth more (e.g. my car). But I own nothing this nice. It sounds hyperbolic to put it that way, but I offer this observation with no exaggeration.

When you watch the video Apple released of the iPhone 5, you notice that most of the airtime is given over to the manufacturing process of the phone. Apple has clearly invested a lot of time into making sure that the iPhone 5’s case is the best they can possibly do. The whole manufacturing process comes across as highly innovative, and if you believe John Gruber, the end result is the most amazing physical device.

Walt Mossberg from the Wall Street Journal’s Allthings D sums up his week with the iPhone as thus:

On balance, I still consider the iPhone the best smartphone on the market, especially with its staggering 700,000 third-party apps and a wealth of available content.

Digital Possibilities View

We’ve not yet had the opportunity to see the iPhone 5, but from what we’ve read, we’re really impressed by the innovations that have created the latest iteration of the product.

What, we believe, Apple set out to do when it created the iPhone was to create the best possible device for smartphone users; and we believe that this is what they are continuing to try to do. This is their ongoing mission.

If you are a normal smartphone user, there are a set of things you do with your phone, and a set of characteristics that you want your phone to have. I think that Apple understands this very well, better than the other manufacturers. Apple understands that normal people actually like smaller and lighter and more comfortable. They understand that reliability, smoothness and ease of use are important.

Hence Apple released a phone that is extremely well built, it’s light, has a beautiful screen and is probably more hard-wearing than previous iterations. It is also just a very pretty device, it’s a luxury quality item that everyone can afford. Normal people like this.

Focusing on the visual design and working to a very high level of precision will also put clear blue water between Apple and the competition. In order to produce a device with the same build quality, Samsung, Nokia and HTC will have to invest a lot and it will take them much time; with a lot of difficulties to overcome.

In the past, the competition has focused on increasing screen sizes to entice customers in carrier stores. Apple, seems to be focusing on build quality to make its devices more attractive than other smartphones at the point of sale. Imagine a normal going into a store and picking up a plastic Samsung phone that feels big, and then picking up an iPhone, feeling the quality, lightness and how well it feels in the hand. That can be a huge advantage for the iPhone.

Digital Possibilities’ Conclusion

A week after the iPhone 5 was announced we’re still very excited by Apple’s new phone. Pre-orders sold out in three hours, it looks like it is going to be a very successful device. We believe that as more people experience it, more positive reviews of the iPhone 5 will come out. It is a very good device.

For most people buying a new smartphone, it will remain the best choice to make. For current iPhone 4S owners, it makes sense to wait for the next incarnation of the iPhone due out in 12 months.

Conclusions from the press:

MG Siegler:

The iPhone 5 is the culmination of Apple doing what Apple does best. This is the smartphone nearly perfected.

Jim Dalyrmple:

My experience with the iPhone 5, iOS and the EarPods has been great. The iPhone is everything Apple said it would be and with iOS 6 built-in, it’s clear to me that Apple has another winner on its hands.

I can’t think of any good reason why anyone wouldn’t upgrade or purchase the iPhone 5.

John Gruber:

There’s a reason why, just as with all five of its predecessors, it just says “iPhone” on the back. The iPhone 5 is all new technically, but it’s the exact same thing as an idea. Apple is simply improving upon that idea year after year in infinitely finer detail, like a fractal. It’s nice.

Walt Mossberg:

Apple has taken an already great product and made it better, overall. Consumers who prefer huge screens or certain marginal features have plenty of other choices, but the iPhone 5 is an excellent choice.