Yesterday, Apple unveiled the new iPhone 5, which (in the U.S. and many other countries) can be pre-ordered starting this Friday, September 14 and will be in stores starting Friday, September 21. The price is the same as the iPhone 4S that it replaces: $199 for 16GB, $299 for 32GB and $399 for 64GB. Except perhaps for the screen size, there is no single, new hardware feature that really stands out with the iPhone 5. Instead, Apple has tried to enhance every part of the iPhone, and the combination of these major and minor enhancements adds up to a much better 2012 model of the iPhone.
I watched the video of Apple's presentation last night and I've read initial reviews from lots of people who were there and who had a chance to try out the iPhone 5 yesterday. Here are the key features of the iPhone 5 and the reason that I think that lawyers will love this new device.
Apple has come out with a new iPhone every year since it first debuted in 2007 so the iPhone 5 is the sixth model, but it is not the sixth design. The original 2007 iPhone had one design, the iPhone 3G in 2008 and 3GS in 2009 had a second design with rounded corners, and the iPhone 4 in 2010 and iPhone 4S in 2011 had a third design that was thinner and more squared off on the sides. The iPhone 5 is thus the fourth design for the iPhone, the first update since June of 2010, and it is a really nice design.
The most noticeable new feature is that the screen is now taller. The iPhone width stays the same at around 2.3", which Apple considers the best size for your hand. I've tried some of the larger Android phones, and while a large screen can be nice, the larger width does seem awkward to hold. Thus, I'm glad that Apple kept the width the same. The height is now 4.87", up somewhat from 4.54 on the the iPhone 4 and 4S. With that slight increase in height, and by devoting more of the front of the iPhone to the screen (shrinking the bezels at the top and the bottom), the iPhone 5 has a 4" screen instead of the prior 3.5" increase (using traditional diagonal measurements). Instead of 640 x 960 pixels, the iPhone 5 has 640 x 1136 pixels.
The extra pixels allow for one extra row on the home screen: six rows with 24 apps instead of five rows with 20 apps. It also allows apps to present more information at one time — more emails without having to scroll in the Mail app, a view of all five days in the work week when the Calendar app is in landscape view instead of just three days — and for some apps will mean that there is now space for additional options.
These new dimensions are also roughly 16x9, so watching a movie that is in widescreen format should be even more enjoyable on the iPhone 5. And while I prefer to type with my thumbs with the iPhone in portrait mode, if you are one of those people who prefer turning the iPhone to landscape mode to type with larger keys, you'll like the even larger keys that you get with the extra 176 pixels.
All of Apple's apps are, of course, updated for the taller screen. Third-party apps will need to be updated to take advantage of the increased screen real estate, but those that are not yet updated will simply have black bars on the top and bottom (or the two sides in landscape mode) so they will look the same that they looked on an iPhone 4 or 4S.
The iPhone 5 keeps the all-glass front that has been on every iPhone model. But unlike the all-glass back on the iPhone 4 and 4S, the iPhone 5 has aluminum on both the sides and most of the back. (There are small glass bands at the top and bottom of the back to let the antennas get a better signal.) On the black version of the iPhone 5, the aluminum has a black slate color; on the white iPhone 5 the aluminum has a bright silver color.
The iPhone 5 is thinner than previous models: 7.6mm versus 9.3mm. The main way that Apple was able to do this is that instead of having one layer for the touch sensor and one layer for the screen, Apple has figured out how to combine those two layers. This not only makes the phone thinner, but also makes the image sharper and reduces glare in sunlight. Vincent Nhuyen of SlashGear says: "We loved the Retina Display in the iPhone 4/4S, but the iPhone 5 trumps both: it looks somehow crisper and cleaner, and it’s bright, even under the lights of Apple’s demo area. The anti-glare coating certainly helps there."
Even though the iPhone is taller, because it is thinner it is also lighter, 112 grams instead of 140 grams.
The weight difference may not sound like much, but reports from people who were able to handle the iPhone 5 yesterday are that the weight difference is quite noticeable — in part because the iPhone is taller, so that weight is distributed across a wider area, which makes the whole thing seem even lighter. As Joshua Topolsky of The Verge states: "The 7.6mm, 112-gram chassis is incredibly sleek, and exceptionally light... it feels almost too light in the hand. This isn't just in comparison to the relatively heavy iPhone 4S — sure, the iPhone 5 may not be the thinnest phone out there as Apple claims — but this feels incredibly light against smartphones in general." Similarly, Andy Ihnatko reported on MacBreak Weekly: "It is much, much thinner in hand than it looks in any video or photo that you might get. It feels noticeably lighter than my iPhone 4S." Thus, the iPhone 5 is not just technically thinner and lighter, but also it really feels thinner and lighter.
Apple emphasized yesterday that it uses very exacting manufacturing processes to produce a high-quality phone. This is good to hear, but it is nothing new; the iPhone has always felt like a more premium phone than most any other smartphone on the market. For example, for the iPhone 5, Apple disclosed that before the front glass is attached to the aluminum back, Apple first uses two high-powered cameras to take a picture of each back housing so that it can pick one of 725 different cuts of the front to get the best possible fit. As Darren Murph of Engadget states: "there's no doubting the premium fit and finish when you clutch one of these things."
There are a few other changes to the design. For example, the front-facing camera is now centered at the top so you will no longer have to hold the iPhone slightly to the side for your face to be centered in the screen during a FaceTime videochat. The headphone jack is now on the bottom instead of the top.
All in all, it looks like Apple has come up with a fantastic design. Ryan Block of GDGT joked on Twitter: "Great. Use the iPhone 5 for ten minutes and now my iPhone 4S feels tiny, fat, and ugly. And that’s how they get me every time." I wouldn't be surprised if this 2012 design remains the same for the 2013 version of the iPhone too, just like the last two designs lasted for two years each.
Ultrafast Wireless Technology
A lot of what lawyers do with the iPhone involves sending and receiving data such as large email attachments, websites and PDF documents. Thus, I'm excited to see two improvements to the iPhone's wireless technology.
First, the iPhone 5 supports 4G LTE with up to 100 Mbps theoretical capacity. I discussed this feature on Tuesday.
Second, Wi-Fi can be faster with the iPhone 5 because it supports the 5 GHz flavor of 802.11n (and 801.11a if that makes a difference to you) in addition to the 802.11b/g/n that the iPhone 4/4s support.
The iPhone 5 uses a new chip that Apple calls the A6. Thanks to the faster CPU and graphics, Apple says that the iPhone 5 will feel twice as fast when you are launching apps, saving images, viewing attachments, etc. Joshua Topolsky of The Verge said after using the iPhone 5 yesterday that "the device is noticeably faster than the iPhone 4S." The iPhone 4S is no slouch, but the less time that you spend waiting on your device, the more time you can spend getting your work done — plus you have less frustration associated with waiting.Improved Camera
Like the iPhone 4S, the iPhone 5 has an 8 megapixel camera and takes pictures with an f/2.4 aperture. But the iPhone 5 camera now does a better job taking pictures in low light, up to two F-stops greater in low light. And improved optics make your pictures even sharper.
Perhaps more important, the iPhone is now 40% faster when taking photographs, making it easier to take a large number of pictures in a row — just like a fashion photographer. Vincent Nhuyen of SlashGear says that "there’s no shutter lag or app delay that we can see, and the whole thing – together with the camera shortcut on the iOS lockscreen – makes an even stronger case for replacing your dedicated point-and-shoot."
If you are taking video with an iPhone, the camera now has better stabilization. And Apple says that you can even take photographs while you are recording video; I'll be interested to see how that works in practice.
If you like to use FaceTime, the camera on on the front now uses 720p instead of VGA, so you should look much better.
The iPhone 5 Camera app also lets you take panorama shots. David Pogue of the New York Times says: "I took only two panorama shots in my limited time with the iPhone 5, but they came out crazy good." This may just be a feature of iOS 6, so perhaps older iPhones will gain the panorama feature as well.
The iPhone 5 does a better job of getting audio in and out of your iPhone.
First, the iPhone 5 features three microphones: one on the bottom, one on the front, and one on the back. The multiple microphones provide better audio for telephone calls, better noise cancellation, and better voice recognition for Siri.
The iPhone 5 also reportedly has better speaker quality.
Third, the iPhone 5 comes with a new type of earphone that Apple calls the EarPods. The shape is supposed to be a comfortable fit for a broad range of ears, and the acoustics are enhanced.
Jason Snell of Macworld says that he didn't use the EarPods for long enough to judge whether they are more comfortable, but that they "sound a whole lot better than the old Apple earbuds did." And David Pogue of the New York Times noted that the new EarPods seem to do a better job of staying in his ears.
The EarPods come with a storage and carrying case:
Finally, the iPhone 5 can take advantage of something called Wideband Audio which uses more frequency to make your voice sound more natural on a phone call. However, carriers need to provide special support for Wideband Audio, and as of now, none of the U.S. carriers have announced plans to do so.
You might imagine that these new features would cause a loss in battery life. That was the problem with the original 4G LTE phones; battery life was horrible. But the iPhone 5 actually has slightly more battery life than previous models, such as 8 hours on 4G LTE or 3G, versus 6 hours on 3G with the iPhone 4S and 10 hours on Wi-Fi, versus 9 hours of Wi-Fi on the iPhone 4S.
The new "Lightning" Connector
Up until now, the iPhone has always had a 30-pin connector on the bottom. That connector first debuted with the iPod back in 2003. The iPhone 5 replaces the 30-pin connector with the new Lightning connector.
The Lightning connector is much smaller, so it helps the iPhone 5 to be smaller and lighter. It is reversible so you can plug it in either way; there is no "right side up" as there is with the 30-pin connector and most other cable connectors. And the Lightning connector is supposed to be more durable. David Pogue of the New York Times says that the Lightning connector "clicks nicely into place, but it can be yanked out quickly." That sounds good.
iPhone accessory makers can be expected to add the new Lightning connector to their products just as soon as they can. But what about all of your existing accessories that still use the 30-pin connector? You'll have to use an adapter. Apple sells a $29 version that is just an adapter and a $39 version that includes a six inch cord between the 30-pin connector and the Lightning connector if you are also looking for a small extension.
The iPhone 5 comes with iOS 6 installed. (Current iPhones can upgrade to iOS 6 starting Wednesday, September 19.) I don't mean to shortchange this because the fantastic iOS software is one of the main advantages of the iPhone. But Apple previewed iOS 6 this past June and announced virtually no new features yesterday, so take a look at this post to see all of the reasons that I think that lawyers will really like iOS 6.
Apple made a few more announcements that might be of interest to lawyers using an iPhone.
Apple said that there are now over 700,000 apps in the App Store. 250,000 of them are tailored for the iPad. And here is an interesting statistic: 90% of iOS apps are downloaded by at least one person every month, and the average person has over 100 apps on their iPhone or iPad. So it's not like everyone is just downloading the same thing.
Apple also announced that it has sold over 400 million iOS devices as of June of 2012. And that reminds me, I suppose I should mention that Apple also updated the iPod touch yesterday to include many (but not all) of the new features in the iPhone 5. So if you are looking for an iPhone without the phone, the new iPod touch may be just the ticket.
Finally, for those looking to get an iPhone who don't want the latest and greatest, Apple will now sell the iPhone 4S (16 GB) for $99 and the iPhone 4 (8 GB) for free when purchased with a contract.
The Bottom Line
It comes as no surprise that the next version of the iPhone is even better, but with the larger screen, increased speed, and thinner and lighter design, I'm much more excited about the new iPhone this year than I was for the iPhone 4S last year. And that is saying something because the iPhone 4S has been a great phone.
Thus, I am excited to pre-order my iPhone 5 this Friday, and I'm sure that many other lawyers will be doing the same. I usually buy my iPhones directly from AT&T, and as of Wednesday night AT&T has yet to announce how it is handling pre-orders, but I'm sure we'll hear more about that very soon. You'll also be able to pre-order on the Apple website.