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Now browsing: Hometown News > Computer/Technology > Geekspeak

This Week | Archive

New iPhone is just catching up
Rating: 3.86 / 5 (37 votes)  
Posted: 2012 Oct 19 - 02:53

Now that we have gotten past the relentless hype surrounding the release of the new iPhone 5, it's time to get past the predictable gushing from the Apple-worshipping fan boys and media about how it's "the best smart phone EVER!" and do a reality check.

Before I begin, let me first say the iPhone is a fine product and Apple is a fine company. Certainly it is a great smart phone. If you love your iPhone, and would never consider anything else. I am happy for you. You can stop reading now.

For everyone else, here's the truth. Far from being an innovative product, the new iPhone is just now catching what's been available for years on Android smart phones. Consider the phone's amazing new features:

The screen is bigger! Sure enough, the iPhone screen has grown about a half inch taller, while maintaining its old width. What this gets you is one extra row of app icons - and bigger ads on content screens. Be still my heart. Larger screens - some much larger than the one on the new iPhone -- have been standard on Android phones for several years. And many of them have the more advanced OLED screens, which most argue are brighter, and have better color saturation than Apple's aging "Retina" screens. And they consume less power, extending battery life.

It has 4G LTE! This allows faster Internet service in those parts of the country where it is available, which is good. But Apple is way late to the party on this one. Android phones have had this ability for years, so, no big deal.

It's thinner and lighter! It wasn't too long ago the Apple fanatics were arguing the heavier and thicker iPhones felt more solid when compared to the lighter and thinner Android phones, which were dismissed as toy-like. Now that Apple has caught up, it's a fantastic new feature worthy of bragging about.

Siri is smarter! The famous voice-activated talking assistant now can provide sports scores on demand, among other things. The less cleverly named Google voice search on Android phones has been doing this for a while now. But overall, Siri is smarter so this is one area where Apple is ahead of the competition.

It has a cool new mapping app! Um, well, maybe not. Even Apple fans are complaining about this one, since the new app is rife with errors and provides considerably less detail than the old one. Apple apparently made this change, not to help its customer, but to poke a stick in the eye of arch-rival Google, which powered the original mapping app on iPhones. Apple's response: It will get better over time. The YouTube app, which has also been a fixture on iPhones since day one, also has been dropped for the same reason. Google owns YouTube -- and more importantly -- Android.

It has a new smaller docking connector! The old wide flat connector that has been used on every iPhone until now has been replaced by a smaller narrow one, dubbed Lightning, that works regardless of which way it is plugged in. Great idea, but what about all the accessories you already own, including charging docks, clock radios, etc., that use the old dock? Oh, you want an adapter? Apple will be happy to sell you one for $29. Oh, and even then, it might work, or at the very least, won't be fully functional. Unhappy? Too bad. Apple said it needed to change the dock to make the iPhone thinner. But instead of going with an inexpensive standard micro-USB adapter commonly used on Android phones, Apple opted for a custom one it could use to squeeze more money out of its always compliant customers. They are used to paying more so what's one more outlandishly overpriced "accessory" in the big scheme of things?

But it's a new Apple iPhone! Forget everything else. This is the real reason Apple can keep getting away with producing products with marginal improvements and then charging exorbitant prices for them. Many of its customers are wildly devoted to the brand and will literally stand in line for days to be the first to buy them, no matter what. Many in the media, who are equally devoted to all things Apple, breathlessly hype every product launch with the kind of fervor usually reserved for presidential elections, so one feeds on the other.

I could go on about new technology the new iPhone doesn't have, but should, like a near field communications chip now common in many new Android phones. It is used to share data by tapping phones together and digital wallet applications that allow you to use your phone to pay for purchases. But you get the picture.

In the interest of fairness, I should mention the Apple ecosystem is still superior to Android's and, generally speaking, the iOS that runs the phones is smoother and less crash prone than some Android devices. But if you already own an Apple iPhone, you can enjoy those advantages without buying a new one.

So it comes down to this. The original iPhone was a truly innovative device that changed the world. The new one, not so much. Just keep that in mind when you go shopping for your next smart phone.

Tony Briggs has been a technology columnist for more than 20 years.

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