Apple pretty much created the market for modern smartphones, but producing a device that was both beautiful and fitted your MP3 player, a decent web browser, and an email client in your pocket. There were plenty of Windows Mobile phones out there, but they were horrendous to use, and BlackBerrys were great for business, but offered little outside of fast, secure email. None of them were beautiful.
Then Apple came along and completely shook up the space. iOS was a revolution in mobile usability, and the app store that has grown from it has been great for developers big and small, as they could start to take advantage of these mini-computers that people have on them all the time. But Apple did not invent the smartphone – they just found the perfect recipe.
The last major change Apple made to the iPhone was the iPhone 4, which again is a beautiful device. The iPhone 4S was a stop-gap which just upgraded the internals and the screen, but there was a lot of expectation for the next generation iPhone 5. People were hoping for something truly revolutionary, many were even expecting it. And what did they get? A slightly taller phone, that otherwise looks like an iPhone 4S but with an ugly two-tone back.
The biggest changes on the device were the replacing of Google Maps with Apple’s own proprietary mapping app, with data provided by Tom Tom, and the change in pin-connector. Yes the chip has been upgraded, and more storage options are available, but such changes are simply expected one year after the last device was released.
Apple Maps does look like an interesting product, and more competition in the mapping space is always a good thing. But how much better Apple’s first attempt at maps will be when compared to Google’s version for Android that has been getting slowly ever-better since launch. It will be notably better than Google Maps on the iPhone, but that was always a cut-down version anyway.
The pin-connector is, however, a more thorny issue. Over the past decade or more, it has been great that however old your apple device was, you could still use the same peripherals as the connector has stayed the same. The connector was getting a bit long in the tooth and was due and upgrade, but it is a mystery as to why Apple decided to go for something different to the worldwide standard that Micro-USB has become. Pretty much every other smartphone and tablet on the market uses Micro-USB as its charging/data port – but Apple needs to be different. It is difficult to argue the benefit of keeping a unique charging port, when standard are available and you have already decided to make a change. The only reason I can think of is that Apple makes a good deal of profit by keeping people locked in to using Apple-certified peripherals. Now those peripherals will slowly become obsolete, and Apple is trying to lock in users again.
For a company that claims that everyone else is copying them, Apple are simply playing catch-up to the bigger screened 4G Android devices with the iPhone 5, and I, for one, am disappointed. Again.