iPhone 5: Black and White

It has been a couple of days since Apple unveiled the iPhone 5, which has been plenty of time for the news to sink in. So we gave the announcements some thought and formed some early impressions, at least of the primary details known so far. Follow along and see if they match yours:

 

LTE: Better late than never. (But make no mistake, it is totally late to the game.)

4-inch display: Ditto (see above).

Taller, but lighter and thinner: Some people will love this — a bigger screen could make for a more immersive experience, while the thinner form factor and lighter weight will maintain portability. But others will absolutely fear this combination, as it could suggest an even more fragile handset. Given the “shattered iPhone” incidents of the past, this may be no small matter. And that’s aside from the whole dispute over claims of it being “the world’s thinnest smartphone.”

A6 processor: Tentatively, this is a win. A next-gen model doubling the speed of the previous generation sounds pretty good. Of course nothing is confirmed until the actual handset is in the house, so we can properly evaluate its performance up close. In other words, it looks good on paper, but we want to sniff out whether the reality matches the promise before we say for sure.

Better camera: Upgrades to the camera are numerous. Sure, the megapixels are the same (8MP), but photo quality should be much improved with all the upgrades, including “sappire” crystal lens, panorama mode, faster photo capture, backside illumination, hybrid IR filter, five-element lens, f/2.4 aperture, spatial noise reduction, dynamic low-light mode and simultaneous image and video capture. Even the front-facing camera is supposed to deliver better FaceTime quality. Considering that modern smartphone users are photography addicts, this one’s a win.

HD Voice: Great… except none of the U.S. carriers support it.

Lightning Port: Apple just ushered a mountain of accessories into defunct-land with this. Okay, it’s offering a Lightning adapter to help allow some legacy accessories to work with the new handset, but it’s definitely not going to work for all of them. (For more on that, refer to this post.) And even though the company will be releasing Lightning adapters for HDMI and VGA in the next couple of months, it still super-sucks to deal with extraneous parts when all you want to do is dock your phone. (Huge sympathies to anyone with multiple iPhone accessories.)

FaceTime over cellular: Reserving judgement on this one. It all rests on how well the networks will handle a sudden surge of video-chatting traffic on their pipes. Presumably, LTE should be able to deal with it, but we won’t know for sure until the throngs of users hit the networks.

Better battery life: Yes, a million times, yes. For any phone, longer battery life is always a great thing.

Colors: Meh. Black and white are longstanding iPhone color choices, so I neither hate it nor love it — even with the slight tweaks on the rear back plate. But there is one thing that has been eating at me — the new iPod Touch looks fabulous in different colors. So why couldn’t the new iPhone offer such eye-catching choices? (And don’t get me started on “The Loop.” Maybe it’s just a personal thing, but there is no Earthly reason why the smartphone shouldn’t allow for a wrist strap too.)

Near Field Communication: Actually, this one should be phrased as “the utter and complete lack of NFC.” Let’s be real: Support for NFC is far from commonplace right now, though it’s just a matter of time before it becomes more widespread. However, if the iPhone 5 had included this, it would’ve surely accelerated its adoption. The fact that it didn’t… well, that’s just disappointing, and not just for iOS users.

 

In all honesty, these look like very solid upgrades, but not of the “zoinks-O-M-G-I-have-to-have-this” variety. At this point, consumers — especially those not locked into the iOS ecosystem — have some real alternatives at present or coming soon. And even those who are deeply invested in iOS also have a choice: Upgrade to this latest model or go with an older model iPhone. After all, the 4S is crazy cheap now, and the 4 is even offered for free (on contract).

Which will you choose? Apple already sold out of its initial iPhone 5 stock within an hour of pre-orders opening last night, so if you want to buy the latest handset from the manufacturer, you’ll have to wait a couple of weeks for delivery. (Well, at least there’s Best Buy, which is also offering the phone. As of this writing, the retailer is still promising a September 21 ship date.) Will you hang in there for the 5, snag an older iPhone, or bypass the iPhone completely for another handset — perhaps the Galaxy Note 2, Lumia 920 or another?