As soon as I got the official news up about the iPhone 5, the comments started rolling in. They were overwhelmingly negative.
Now, it's easy to assume this is just a vocal minority of Apple haters flooding the comments section. The Tea Party of the tech world. But if you look past all the spelling errors and vitriol, there are some intelligent nuggets buried in there.
Most notably, a lot of people took Apple to task for including hardware upgrades that already feel outdated because Androidphones have had them for years now. Plus, there's all the stuff Apple didn't include.
Here's the breakdown:
The iPhone 5's two biggest hardware updates are its larger 4-inch screen and 4G LTE radio. It's extremely rare to find a new Android phone nowadays with anything smaller than a 4-inch screen. In fact, Android manufacturers continue to make their phones bigger, sometimes absurdly so. With the iPhone 5, it's clear Apple finally broke down and realized consumers love large screens. It's also clear those who have defended Apple's decision to stick with a smaller screen were dead wrong.
So, good point. Four-inch displays are nothing new in smartphones.
Then there's LTE, the fastest wireless data standard available. LTE has been around for over a year, starting with HTC's Thunderbolt Android phone that launched in spring 2011. Since then, nearly every premium non-iPhone device that's launched ran on LTE networks. It took a year and a half for the iPhone to achieve that.
So, good point. LTE has been around for an eternity by tech standards. It's a bummer Apple didn't include it in the iPhone 4S last year.
As for what Apple left out of the iPhone 5, there's Near Field Communication (NFC) and wireless charging. NFC chips let you make mobile payments with your phone and swap content with other devices just by tapping them together. Wireless charging lets you charge your phone by resting it on a power pad. (We saw wireless charging last week with Nokia's new Windows Phone, the Lumia 920.) Both of these features are increasingly becoming standard in smartphones, but Apple didn't include them in the iPhone 5.
Bad point. I still don't think NFC is ready for widespread use. Mobile payments are cool in theory, but the infrastructure at point of sale isn't there yet. The world isn't ready to ditch cash and credit cards for a phone. And I'm on the fence about wireless charging. It seems cool in theory, but charging is much slower using one of those wireless pads. I'd rather have my phone get to 100% in several minutes, not several hours. As history shows us, Apple isn't going to put features like these in the iPhone just because it can. It's going to wait until they've perfected them.
At the end of the day, the criticism doesn't matter. Apple leapfrogged everyone by several years when it introduced the first iPhone. Today, its mobile ecosystem is the best there is. Its mobile operating system is the best there is. And that's what really grabs people's attention. Software. Not hardware tricks and specs.