iPhone 5: Industry reaction and consumer opinion

The overwhelming attention paid to last night’s launch event shows just how well constructed and marketed these iPhones have been over the years. Arguably, when a product is hyped as much as the iPhone 5 has been, no-one is ever going to be completely happy, and it can be hard to rationalise just how impressive (or otherwise) a new device is when it’s under such excessive levels of scrutiny.

But it is now the proverbial morning-after-the-night before, and a considered look at different ends of the opinion spectrum can help us see just how successful this next-generation smartphone will be, and how excited you should really feel about it.

Starting off by looking at things in a very practical sense, the one major gripe of current iPhone users is its poor battery life. It’s the issue that’s become normalised and manageable because of how long it has existed, but this doesn’t make it any less important when we’re analysing the new model. ITProPortal’s James Laird says, “Apple again looks like it has let its user base down with regards to battery life,” citing the unimproved eight-hour talk time claimed on the iPhone 5, which compares to the 12 hours purportedly supplied by the 2100 mAh in the Samsung Galaxy S3.

Another area we are also quick to dissect after smartphone releases is the display. Galaxy S3 fans argue the shimmering 4.8in screen on Samsung’s device trumps the iPhone’s new display, but industry analyst Geoff Richards, claims Apple’s product “retains the high performance qualities of IPS LCD and improves colour accuracy.”

Highlighting the nuances involved in judging screen quality, he continues, “Some users think Samsung wins the fight, seemingly based purely on the 1280 x 720 resolution of the Galaxy S3 vs the iPhone 5 at “only” 1136 x 640, but it’s not only about the numbers.

“The Super AMOLED display on the S3 uses a Pentile sub-pixel matrix. To some people, this manifests as a “fly-screen door” or grid effect, making graphics appear slightly speckled and text slightly fuzzy, especially in high-contrast black text on white backgrounds. The colour reproduction also borders on over-saturated in reds and greens.”

Nevertheless, after an incredible year of accolades and sales, the S3 is proving to be the primary fall-back for those who have been waiting for the iPhone 5, and were left unimpressed last night. Comparisons of the two are everywhere and the debate over which model is superior continues to rage under our own specs face-off. ITProPortal reader Todd Sanderson comments, “Apple just made my mind up. I have had the 3G, 3Gs, and 4. Buying a Galaxy 3 [now]. Bigger screen, faster processor, external memory, replaceable battery, and more features for less money. Not being suckered by Apple's holding back on features anymore.”

But fellow reader Jon Lome, a self-confessed “Android guy who is a huge fan of Android, with an Android phone sitting next to me”, concedes that the new iPhone is “gorgeous, practical, powerful, and will probably still operate better than an S3, because it runs on IOS, and not Android.”

He adds that “some of us aren't interested in putting a brick in our pocket. 4.8 inches is a fantastic screen size, but when I use my friends S3 […]I find myself needing two hands on MANY things... no thanks, not for an every day/all day device.”

In this morning’s fallout, Joel Hruska of PC Mag focused on the iPhone 5’s system on a chip (SoC), which he thinks could be a disappointment. Hruska writes, “there’s little indication of the higher-end CPU hardware we expected to debut. Even the “twice as fast” comment about graphics is a throwaway; you’d expect more fanfare if Apple was the first company to debut PowerVR’s next-generation Series 6 GPUs, particularly given that this would give Apple ammo as a trendsetter/trailblazer.

“The iPhone 4S took heat for being an incremental upgrade rather than a major new device, but it felt like a much bigger launch than the iPhone 5. That might’ve been thanks to Siri, but the advent of a dual-core SoC and the dramatic graphics improvement sold us on the 4S in a way the iPhone 5 doesn’t really duplicate.”

The relative anti-climax of last night’s unveiling that Hruska implicates is expressed more explicitly on Wired, by Mat Honan. Like Hruska, Honan in no way thinks Apple has released a bad product with the iPhone 5 - quite the opposite in fact – but he argues that the Cupertino firm has effectively become a victim of its own success, as a result of raising excitement levels so high in launches over previous years.

“The iPhone 5 is the greatest phone in the world,” he says. “It has top-notch hardware with a zippy new A6 processor and amazing four-inch display. Its new operating system, iOS 6, is slicker than slugs on ice. And its ultra-slim body, an all-glass and aluminium enclosure, is a triumph of industrial design. There is nothing not to like about the phone […] And yet it is also so, so cruelly boring.”

Summing up the views of many, Honan continues, “It's a weird paradox. The iPhone 5 can simultaneously be the best phone on the market and really, really boring. And that has almost nothing to do with Apple and everything to do with our expectations.”

The way a launch of a mobile telephone can bore, thrill, anger, and completely divide people, demonstrates profoundly how engulfed in consumerism we are. Whether Apple has cynically helped create this environment, or simply capitalised on it in masterful fashion, is open to debate. But the speed in which disgust at the latest exposé on working conditions in its factories was shunted from all conscious thought when a shiny product emerged on a podium in California, is remarkable. That’s the power of the iPhone, and these debates will only rumble on. Until the next one of course.