With iPhone 5, Apple playing catch-up with Android devices

Apple’s iPhone 5 will be the thinnest iPhone yet. (Photo: Apple)

When the iPhone first came out, I didn’t get what all the hype was about.

Before it was even available in Canada, we heard the hype from the U.S. launch about this magical new device that Apple had launched. It was more than just a cell phone – it was a camera, a Web browser, a contact organizer, a music player, and a video player. “So what?”, I thought to myself smugly. “My HTC p4000 can do all of those things, and it has a real keyboard too.”

I was quickly proven wrong about the iPhone. It really did live up to the hype, thanks to the user experience that its elegant hardware design combined with iOS offered over devices based on Windows Mobile 6. But after Apple’s launch of the iPhone 5 yesterday – which is actually the sixth iteration of the device – I am left thinking pretty much the same thing. So what?

With many of the new features revealed for the new iPhone, it feels like Apple is just playing catch-up with many of the premium Android handsets available on the market. Take the larger, 4-inch screen size, for example. Clearly this is a response to the trend of Android smartphones including ever-larger screen sizes. Samsung’s Galaxy Note with its 5-inch screen size and Galaxy S III with its 4.8-inch screen size sold like hot cakes and Apple must have been suffering from screen envy. In response, its upsized the iPhone screen to four inches, typical of many Android devices on the market. (Now who is copying who?)

The other big features on the iPhone 5 flaunted yesterday include an LTE cellular radio so it can connect with modern high-speed networks, and an 8-megapixel camera that is much unchanged from the iPhone 4S. The LTE connectivity is already available in many devices on the market and is an obvious upgrade to keep pace with wireless broadband. The camera is comparable to many other 8 megapixel cameras capable of HD video capture.

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Apple is still leaving out standard features offered by many Android phones. The iPhone 5 won’t include near-field communications (NFC) chip technology, meaning it can’t be used as a tap-to-pay mobile wallet. Nor can it be tapped to NFC tags to conveniently trigger certain device functions, the way that the just-announced Nokia Lumia 920 will start streaming its audio over a JBL speaker when you simply tap it with the phone. Apple still refuses to allow for external memory card slots to further expand storage.

Still, just as the original iPhone was so clearly superior to my HTC p4000 smartphone in 2007, the iPhone 5’s secret sauce may be in the user experience. Not a list of features that may or may not be included in other smartphones, but a cumulative effect resulting from design and execution. As Apple would say, a smartphone that “just works.”

Come Sept. 21, I won’t be surprised this time if the sales live up to the hype.

Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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