• MacTalk Roundtable Part 1: What did you make of the iPhone 5 event?

    Last week was kind of a big week in Apple news. The new iPhone 5, all-new iTunes, a new iPod nano & iPod touch, new earpods & the new lightning connector all descended from the Cupertino labs. The 2-hour event was absolutely packed with news, both large and small.

    Now we've all had time to digest exactly what went on, I thought I'd tap into our writers to make sense of it all. This weekend, I posed a question to our fleet of fine MacTalk writers; what did you make of last week's events? Turns out, everyone had quite a bit to say!

    Here are 4 of the responses from yours truly, Athol 'MissionMan' Hill, Ben Johnston & Jared Zammit. Tomorrow, we'll have thoughts from Anthony, Pete, Jonathan Nalder & more!

    James Croft

    3 things I took away from the event last week:

    iPhone 5 is cool, but because Iím still in the midst of a 4S contract, I wonít be upgrading. It touch-and-go though; after they announced dual-band every-letter Wi-Fi & LTE, I started thinking about how iOS 6 also adds seamless cellular failover from Wi-Fi. Suddenly, an iPhone 5 makes sense to me as a kick-ass 4G hotspot that will work well with AirPlay too (itís on my mind because Iím in the midst of writing an article about fool-proof presentations with an iPad).

    My favourite hardware feature of the new iPhone has to be the improved machined aluminium frame. I dig that the frame colouring now matches the phone; the black one looks particularly handsome. And the thinness! And those gorgeous bevelled chamfers... damn son.

    It seems like a small thing, but one of the complaints of the 4/4S design Iíve had is that it isnít shaped for your hand. These seemingly small adjustments will make it much pleasurable to use day-to-day without compromising the overall design aesthetic.

    Mmmm, chamfers.

    I also feel the new iPod touch was an outstanding release, and probably the sleeper hit of the whole show. The iPod touch now strikes me as much more of a focused product ótargeted squarely at younger users (particularly students), and those that want a pocketable non-iPhone iOS device.

    The introduction of the loop, AirPlay, and a very decent set of cameras all point to this being a product that users will find as capable & fully-featured as the iPhone, but for much less money. Hereís the big question; with this iPod touch in the mix for $329, does a smaller, cheaper iPad still make sense?

    Finally, I think the let-down of the event for me was the new iPod nano. I liked the 6th-gen design, so I will join in the collective sadness that they didnít make the design more watch-like. I think the circle icons look gross, and I donít like the colours (bring back the nano-chromatic colours!). I think it was a good move to add bluetooth, but I donít understand why they didnít go the whole hog and add wifi too. The fitness stuff is cool, but now thereís no clip...

    So now Iím confused. What is this nano meant for? A cheap music player? A primer to step people up to a full-blown iOS device? A fitness gadget? With this newest release, the nano just feels a little directionless.

    Athol Hill (MissionMan)

    I wonít touch on the iPod range much (no pun intended). I like the new nanos but I never use iPodís. I have an old shuffle that's plugged into my swimming goggles but 99% of the time Iíll have my iPhone or iPad with me so Iíve never really looked at them much, and there are a couple MacTalkers here who probably paid more attention to the iPod range launch than me.

    Looking at the launch of the iPhone, there are a couple of issues with Appleís approach which left a lot of people underwhelmed. First and foremost, most of the iPhone 5 features have already been shown in the iOS6 feature update so the phone launch loses a lot of the lustre.

    The second issue is design. I think Apple could have done a lot more and chose not to. The problem is people donít understand design, they just look at the design. I donít think people understand how hard it is to make something more powerful, a larger screen, have a longer battery life and 20% thinner so the genius of it is lost on people. Thatís a problem for Apple. They just look and go ďaw, it looks like the old one.Ē

    The third issue is people compare specs on paper (or the journalists do). They look at the iPhone, compare it to the Samsung Galaxy S3 and say ďHey, Samsung is stronger.Ē The reality is the iPhone has always had lower specs than a large portion of the competition at some point, but specs alone arenít what make a phone succeed. My Macbook Pro isnít better than a Windows Laptop because of the specs, it's because of OS X. Fortunately most users donít listen to journalists.

    The last issue is that people are accustomed to Apple innovating and this phone is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. For most of the big launches we have had a key selling point like the Retina display. This launch lacked anything major that stood out because all the software features came out at WWDC at the unveiling of iOS 6. LTE isnít a major selling point; it has been around for a while. People canít see or touch LTE. We needed something unique that made the public turn around and go ďwow, thatís clever!Ē

    Sure there are some things likely to bug people. The new connector is an annoyance, but it had to happen eventually. Sure, it will make a lot of accessories redundant óincluding my TomTom GPS dock in the caró but that's life. I had the dock for almost 3 years so I guess I canít complain too much. My hi-fi has a dock, but it uses bluetooth so I never use the dock anyway. That said, delivering the connectors in October is bad form. Iíll need a couple of connectors for home but at $35 a pop, Iíll be looking at aftermarket which will presumably be around the $15 range.

    The phone is good, there is no doubt, and Iíve timed my contract end to coincide with the new purchase so Iíll be adding one to my arsenal, but itís good, not spectacular. I donít think Steve would be turning in his grave, but he certainly wouldn't be saying it's the greatest day in Apple's history.

    Ben Johnston

    I'm in the same boat as Athol (MissionMan) in that I have never really needed an iPod. I've had an iPhone since the first ones landed in Australia, and between my and my wife's phone, the iPad, the iMac, and a 'decommissioned' iPhone 3G that is now basically an iPod Touch, we've always got a music device handy. So the iPhone 5 is of the most interest to me.

    Being in the club that got the 3G when it first came out, my bi-annual contracts always cycle in time for each major iPhone update; so far being the 4 and now this year with the 5. So the decision whether to make the upgrade and continue on a more expensive phone plan or whether to keep the old iPhone 4 and move to a more economical plan is currently top-of-mind.

    First of all, my current iPhone 4 is still mostly working okay. The battery life is still good, the screen is still perfect apart from a bit of yellowy discolouration in one of the corners, and the body has been kept safe in a case so it still looks practically brand new. However as apps get more complex, I'm sometimes left waiting as the processor catches up, and I wouldn't mind if the Wi-Fi and 3G worked a bit faster.

    The other thing is the physical design of the device. The glass back has never impressed me. It looks nice in photos, but in the real world it just feels tacked on; heavy and fragile. I much prefer the alloy back of the iPad, so I have high hopes for the iPhone 5 feeling similar in quality. The other thing that's always annoyed me is that the iPhone 4 feels like a sharp sheet of glass against your ear during phone calls, again I feel Apple valued form over function in this area. Lastly my home button is starting to die a slow and frustrating death ... sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't ...

    So the new 5. The design to me although similar to the 4, simply improves on an already classic designóa design that makes nearly every other smart phone on the market feel like it was made by Fisher Price. The fit and finish of the iPad 2 and iPad 'New' is already better than the 4, so by the looks of the photos the 5 will be possibly the highest quality phone in terms of manufacture available on the market. For someone who has a European car and a Swiss watch, this appeals to me immensely! Have they fixed the sharp on-ear experience? From the photos I'd say not, but I won't know for sure until I get my hands on one. Having said that, using the headphones and Bluetooth in the car largely negates this issue.

    Having the headphone port at the bottom next to the charging port makes sense to me, as I often have the charger hanging out the bottom and a cable out the top when plugged into the surround sound. Having them together will neaten it up nicely. The new headphones look promising, but I'm also wary that it may just be another exercise in marketing. Hearing them with my own ears will be the only way to know for sure. With the new Lightning port, I guess I can believe they had to change it for space reasons, though this will mean we can no longer share charging cables at home and at work, and it will render my speaker dock and car stereo connection useless. The 30-pin converter will be fine in the car as the phone rests in the centre console, however the speaker dock stands the phone up and I reckon there will be too much pressure on the connectors with the adaptor in place. I've seen that they'll do a cable version with is probably a safer bet, but that kind of defeats the purpose of having an iPod speaker. This isn't a deal breaker, but it is annoying.

    What might be a deal breaker is that I currently have a Turkish leather iPhone case that I absolutely adoreóit's my favourite accessory that I've ever boughtóand the news that the new taller phone will not fit into the holder is just a little bit disappointing (guess I could fork out another $80 for a slightly longer one ...).

    Apart from those changes all the improvements are positive: thinner, lighter, longer battery life, larger screen, brighter colours, faster processor, faster Wi-Fi and 4G, better camera ... all of this just makes the iPhone experience just that much better than before without mucking up an already winning formula. So if you're in the market for a new phone, it's a no-brainer. If you've still got an iPhone 4 that works just fine, I'm not entirely convinced there's enough reason to upgrade unless you simply 'just want one'óespecially as anyone with the 4 or 4S will soon have iOS6 anyway.

    Having said all that, if my home button keeps stuffing up much more, I'll end up throwing the 4 at a wall in frustration ... and then I'll have no choice but to upgrade! ;-)

    Jared Zammit

    First up, the iPhone five looks gorgeous. The phone is significantly thinner, lighter, 4G supported AND with better battery performance than my 4S. That's insane. 8 hours on 4G browsing is insane. As someone who maxes out 5 hours on a 4S, I'm tempted, though as someone who eats ramen for lunch to afford dinner, I might just be sticking with my 4S until the next generation.

    The iPod range is also a welcome refresh, but hey, who cares about iPods, right? The Touch is fantastically thin, and the Nano looks way more usable that the postage stamp touch screen that preceded it. People seem to be upset about the death of the nano watch, but I think the lack of clip will be way more controversial. The clip was half the reason people bought it. Itís just so useful for jogging and gym going without having to buy the stupid armbands. iTunes 11 is probably what I'm most excited for. I know all the cool kids use Spotify/Pandora now, but I barely listen to new music and use iTunes Match regularly. I can't wait for the refresh. Long overdue.

    I think it's also interesting how Apple approached the iPhone's new features, both in the keynote and their "introducing the iPhone" promo video. There's an odd sense of conservatism. Ive stresses how they don't take lightly to changing the design, how important the way the iPhone works is to people, which is true, but it seems strange coming from The Apple That We Think We Know. Apple has traditionally been company willing to leave the past behind for bleeding edge technology, dropping flash, CD drives, floppy drives, USB drives and soon enough, the desktop metaphor itself. 2012 Apple seems a little more cautious.

    There seems to be an emphasis on how hard their jobs are (manufacturing challenges, etc), how much care goes into the phone, in a way that seems like Apple is insecure about people's perception of the improvements (and by people's perception, I mean people in The Verge comments FURIOUS about how much better the Nokia 920 having never touch the thing, or never actually tried to use Windows Phone 7 and it's resulting ecosystem).

    This cautiousness also comes across in something like NFC. Yes, it's pointless at this stage, but if Apple added the feature it wouldn't be. Placing an edge case technology in the hands of millions is exactly what the adoption of NFC needs, but to do it well is a big job. Would Apple be comfortable handling that many payments? Would you want to hold up the queue on the bus because Apple's GoCard/Miki integration is down? Based on how, ahem ďreliableĒ iMessage has been, I'm willing to let Apple wait this one out until they're absolutely ready to take on such a revolutionary feature.
  • Dropdown