Apple's iPhone 5 fulfills the true potential of everything a smartphone should be able to do.
The iPhone no longer feels like a device with compromises.
In the past, the iPhone was great for everything but making phone calls. It is now good for making phone calls. It was a good camera, but struggled in low-light situations. It's now good in low-light situations. It was great for checking the web, but it took forever to get the web to connect on 3G. With LTE, that's not an issue.
After using the iPhone 5 for five days, I feel like it is pretty much a perfect smartphone. I upgraded to a Verizon iPhone 5 from an AT&T iPhone 4 and the difference is almost night and day.
The iPhone 5 is slim, light, and solid. It looks good, but compared to the iPhone 4 design, it's somewhat pedestrian.
The iPhone 4 with its all glass back and silver band around the edge was a much more striking design. I would pull out the iPhone 4 and admire the design even after I had owned for more than two years.
The iPhone 5 looks great but I don't feel compelled to stare at it in awe of the design. It's almost like a really nicely designed remote control for a TV. It's all black and flat.
That said, I still think it looks better than any other smartphone on the market.
The new four-inch screen on the phone is great. It makes the old iPhone's screen seem tiny and old.
The web loads lightning-fast on LTE, the "4G" wireless network on Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T (where available). Apps like Tweetbot, Foursquare, and email load fast and pull in data as quickly as a desktop computer.
This is how an iPhone is supposed to work. You're not supposed to try to check-in on Foursquare only to see it spinning its wheels for a minute. You're supposed to get tweets instantly. You're supposed to have web pages load in a second.
Apple's decision to kick out Google-based maps for a new maps app using a blend of data from TomTom and other companies has overshadowed the launch of the iPhone 5. While some people say they're having problems with the maps, I have only good things to say about the new maps app.
I think the new maps app looks much better. It moves more smoothly. The integration with Yelp is fantastic. Turn-by-turn directions work very well and look better than any turn-by-turn app I've ever seen.
I live in New York City, and it seems like the New York metro area has been thoroughly mapped out, so I could be an exception. Basically, you're going to have to use them and find out if they suck where you live. If they do, then use Google's web-based maps.
A lot of complaints about Apple's maps seem to center on its 3D maps. The 3D images don't look all that 3D in some cases. That's embarrassing, but it has close to zero impact on your ability to get around the world. 3D maps are a lot of fun to play with when exploring New York City, but I see no practical use for them. If they don't work, it's really not a big deal.
No public transit is a bit of a drag, but jumping from Apple maps to a transit app like Embark is pretty simple.
Siri is not a great product. But I don't think it's a disaster. It just needs work.
I use my iPhone as an alarm. Every night I put in airplane mode so it's not buzzing and blerping in the night to wake me up. I told Siri, "Turn my phone to airplane mode." Siri said, "I can't do that." Siri should be able to do that.
It's not all bad. I've used Siri to send text messages while I'm on my bike, to set an alarm, to set reminders, to give me driving directions, and to tell me sports scores. It works 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time Siri just spins and spins and then craps out.
If you're on AT&T and you can afford to switch to Verizon, do it. I've had no dropped calls, and the call clarity has been off-the-charts great. For the last four years I've struggled to hear people on my cell phone. I was worried something was wrong with my ears. Now I hear people easily. It's better than a land line.
The camera is huge upgrade over the iPhone 4, but in normal lighting it's not much better than the iPhone 4S. In low light, the iPhone 5 demolishes the iPhone 4. It also beats the iPhone 4S.
Here are some comparisons between the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 I took at dinner the other night.
Here's one more comparison shot:
Battery life is about the same as the iPhone 4. It would be nice if Apple could figure out a way to make a big leap with battery life in the future.
Apple made some nice tweaks to iOS. I like the new look of the music app. The App Store looks great and updating apps is easier than ever. There's also Facebook integration, if that's your cup of tea. Aside from Maps, it doesn't feel like a huge upgrade, which is a good thing. The last thing Apple needs to do is add a bunch of features that are pointless.
The iPhone 5 is pretty much a perfect phone.
I've asked around the office for complaints from people with an iPhone 5 and the only thing they've come up with is the new cord. Yes, the new cord is annoying, but Apple had to make it smaller to fit everything into the phone. Plus, at some point in our lives, we had no iPhone charging cords. We're back at square one. It doesn't affect the actual phone's performance.
The number one reason this phone feels like a significant leap forward is the speed. Now that Apple's on LTE it feels like I'm using the iPhone as I've always wanted.
I'm sure in two years I'll think this thing is a hunk of crap. But for now I couldn't be happier with the phone.