• MacTalk Roundtable Part 2: What did you make of the iPhone 5 event?

    Yesterday, we had Part 1 of a MacTalk roundtable on last week's iPhone 5 event. Here's the thrilling conclusion!

    This time around, we've got the scintillating Peter Wells, the illustrious Anthony Agius, the wise Jonathan Nalder, the friendly Phill Farrugia and the omniscient knowledge of Benny Ling weighing in on exactly what last week's event means.

    Peter Wells

    Interesting to see your thoughts James. I really love the new Nano - and welcome the return to the ďtraditionalĒ Nano design. I really love the colours (I know i said I hated them on the live podcast, but theyíve grown on me) and how the screen changes to match the colour, very Lumia. Itís nice to see podcasts have been moved to its own app, just like iOS - hopefully a little better on the nano. I can see this being a very popular stocking stuffer for joggers and gym junkies. At $169, theyíre not much more expensive than a fitbit and cheaper than a fuelband. And lets be honest, the Nano as watch was pretty naff - although i would love a round faced, wafer thin iPod watch one day. For me, the Nano was the highlight. The little iPod was the most redesigned device on show, and the biggest surprise.

    The iPod Touch redesign looks great too. The colours are as beautiful as the nanos, and really help emphasise the Touch as being the playful younger brother of the iPhone. I have no idea why people would want to dangle weird little trinkets off their devices, but having worked in Chinatown for a number of years, i appreciate how many people want to; so the Loop is a cute touch. Itís a bit disappointing the Touch ships with 4S technology though. Historically, the Touch was released six months after an iPhone redesign with the 6 month old technology - there is no need for it to be released with 12 month old tech.

    Now to the iPhone. Iíve seen many people underwhelmed. I know a few fanboys who were completely over-whelmed. Iím just plain whelmed. Iím not at all disappointed the design hasnít changed much. The 4 and 4S were beautiful, solid designs, and this revision seems to keep that design and improve on it slightly. 4G LTE is great - Iím looking forward to websites loading near instantly. A taller screen that isnít fatter is a wise move. I hope my favourite developers begin replacing top-of-screen buttons with bottom-of-screen swipes so my thumb doesn't need to stretch too far.

    The crystal lens on the camera sounds excellent too - not a massive improvement, but i think the camera always needs some kind of advertised improvement, just because Apple care so much about it. I dig the new headphones, canít wait to try them. But is it a worthwhile upgrade? Well, I guess. I did the 4S upgrade because my contract was up, but to be honest, i shouldnít have. The upgrade wasnít really worth it - the main feature, Siri, just ainít that good. Now Iím probably going to upgrade again (buying direct from Apple and ebaying my 4S) but i wonder if Iíll regret it in a few weeks, like i did with the 4S. My plan now is to buy the 5, and when the my contract runs out, just switch to the cheapest prepiad/mvno I can find, skip the 5S re-contract with the 6 (assuming that is the naming pattern).

    Anthony Agius

    Let me tell you why the iPhone 5 isn't a balls out "holy goddamn this is amazingly different and futuristic, eat that Samsung, innovation rulzzzz" upgrade - the technology to do something like that, just, doesn't, exist. There's no magic tap of research & development Apple can turn on to get a huge advance over their competitors, despite Apple's gigantic cash stockpile.

    This article from AnandTech, even though it was written before the iPhone comes out, does a really good job of explaining why Apple make the choices they do when it comes to what consists of an iPhone's hardware. Here's a few of the common "oh man, why didn't Apple do this?" talking points and my responses to them:

    Nano SIM
    Apple went with the nano SIM because it's smaller - simple. Even if it's a fraction smaller, it's still smaller and means there's a percentage less space for a chunk of plastic and more for a logic board or battery. It's not some conspiracy to make you buy a new phone or to control the market or some bullshit - it's purely because it's smaller. There's some initial pain, but in a few months time it's business as usual. Without this sort of "fuck it" mentality, we'd still be using a full credit card sized SIM.

    New Lightning Connector
    I'm not even going to bother explaining why the lightning connector is a better thing for an iPhone than micro USB, because this guy did it way better.

    No NFC
    NFC is nothing beyond a nerd's plaything at the moment. Visa and Mastercard can't get their own PayWave/PayPass apps & wallets and junk themselves right, so Apple is just going to sit back for a while. Plus the design of the iPhone doesn't lend itself to a big square NFC antenna in the middle, as the entire case is metal. Maybe iPhone 6. I would have loved NFC, but thems the facts.

    No 802.11ac
    I would have liked this, but again, chipsets are too immature for placement into Apple's flagship product. It isn't even available as an AirPort base station yet (hope this changes soon though).

    No Wireless Charging
    As awesome as it sounds, it actually kinda sucks (slow, hot) and it needs a big antenna/induction window, which a metal back doesn't lend itself to.

    No 720p screen
    Gruber did it already.

    No improvement to phone camera
    The camera is one of my favourite things in the iPhone 4S and it looks like the camera in the iPhone 5 is the same, with tweaks to image processing afforded by a faster CPU/GPU in the new device. Whilst there's no leap of improvement, getting the same quality camera into a device that's orders of magnitude thinner, is a big deal.

    Battery is still weak
    Incase you haven't noticed, but battery technology is stagnant. The increases in battery life have come from more efficient parts. Until some scientists discover a breakthrough technology, then manage to commercialise it, then manage to make it safe enough to roll out into a product used by 150 million people right next to their heads, nothing's gonna change.

    No USB 3.0
    On USB 3.0, I kinda agree Apple should have included it. It's backwards compatible with USB 2.0, so it's not like you need a new cable or anything. The Samsung Exynos has a USB 3.0 host built in to it's SoC, so why didn't Apple include it in their A6 SoC? Maybe someone smarter than me has an answer...

    Basically, Apple's decisions as to the iPhone boil down to a process like so:
    "is this technology stable and mature enough for our flagship product? 150 million people use this thing, we can't fuck it up, even in the slightest" then, "will this new technology/standard/process make it so that it results in a better overall product for the majority of our users?" If those two conditions are not met, then Apple doesn't do it. Some people might add in a third "will it lock customers in and make us more money?" but they're probably saying that whilst protesting smart meters and worrying about wind farms.

    Jonathan Nalder

    iPhone 5
    Yes I read every comment on every related Mactalk forum. Yes I pre-ordered at 5:02pm. Yes Iíve started researching for cases (decided I wonít need one to start with). Why such enthusiasm? Basically Iím an early adopter. And you know what, so are many many Aussies (Australia is second in the world to SIngapore in new gadget adoption rates). But there is another reason also.

    There has been much talk in the tech press about the iPhone 5 being boring, being a catchup in terms of screen size, of not adding this feature or that etc. I say, ok, sure you need the click-throughs for your sites. But please donít pretend you are that illiterate in the ways of Apple. The design of my iMac hasnít changed in over 3 years. The new marvel of engineering retina Macbook Pro is thinner than the old model, but otherwise identical. The iPhone design has only ever changed really in terms of different back plates - ooh I see thats what they changed this year. So why are some so surprised. Apple is the great blender of innovation and conservative design. Change when you need to, not just to please the crowd.

    It goes without saying that punters vote with their feet, and these will far outnumber the comments across a few blogs. My takeaway is that ďsimple can be harder than complexĒ - yes its an SJ quote - and very relevant here. Make it thinner, lighter and faster has always been Appleís goals for their new product generations. They did this in spades with the iPhone 5. In context of their traditional conservatism, we should be amazed that they also lengthened the screen. Sticking to some simple goals without deviating despite any pressure to do otherwise is hard. Much easier to add things willy nilly and hope something sticks (just see the Vergeís recent review of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 for an example of innovation (S-pen) that is done so poorly it actually detracts from the product experience).

    So, the other reason for my enthusiasm is that holding that level of engineering in my hand (eg. camera elements that are 25% smaller but still manage to be better?!) will be a joy. It will inspire me each day as I work to stick to simple principles even when thats hardest. Ok, enough of the monologuing.

    Other stuff
    Have to say I love the new iPod touch - yes its thinness, colours, great new camera etc make it the real Ďwowí product of the show - but this is mainly because none of this had been leaked. The new Nano is... perhaps a fine product, but does seem pointless to me. Probably just means Iím not in its target market however (fitness...).

    Phill Farrugia

    If Iím considering the iPhone 5 on its own and ignoring all previous iterations, Iíd say itís an amazing phone. A few media outlets have said that it doesn't stack up well in comparison to Android devices and isn't a huge leap ahead. This might be the case on paper and in terms of specs but in reality the iPhone 5 is a brilliant phone in that everything it does, it does well. I suppose I could almost say everything it does, it does the best.

    The still beautifully clear, vibrant and larger screen is going to let users do more while still fitting comfortably within the hand. Iíve always hated ridiculously huge phone screens as they look like the clown shoes of the smartphone generation. Additional microphones are going to enhance phone calls for the first time in a while. One of the best cameras in a phone is getting clearer and easier to take everywhere. The most sturdy and comfortable quality build structure of the phone becomes even more amazing to hold and feel in the palm of any hand and the amazing iOS that users have adored since day one is advancing further.

    iPhone 5 will be one of the greatest all around phones on the market and I don't think you'll find something it does extremely badly, whereas you'll be playing tick the box or pick and choose in terms of strengths in other smartphones.

    Iíve seen a phone that has a great camera, a phone bursting at the seams with screen real estate and even a phone with a pocket projector (I know right?), but for a phone that you can adore in every thing that it does, still the iPhone reigns king.

    I think the new iPod Touch is down right the most awesome itís ever been. I'm somewhat glad Apple has finally distinguished between the iPod touch and iPhone with friendly colours and lanyards. On the other hand, the iPod Nano is the worst roller coaster I could've ever lined up for. From big, to small, to square to round. They were onto something great with the Nano watches and ignored a decent opportunity, unless like Benny mentioned they intend to produce a whole new product, in which case Thursday wouldíve been as good a time as ever to announce such a product. For some crazy reason they decided to differ the home button from the rest of their iOS devices. I'm really curious as to what they actually intended in doing so. That's not to say the Nano isn't still a great music device, but it is not what I envisioned that it could be.

    On a positive note, yay new ear pods! This is a greater advancement than people think. Appleís fashionably white earphones have been heralded as awful by several audiophiles over the years in their attempts to produce decent sound quality in a one-size-fits-all market. If the new solution provides users with a significantly better audio experience across the board, audiophiles may just eat their words.

    Finally, despite what people say, the lightning connector was a necessary risk. It had to be done and won't stop us from reaching into our Apple product fund yet will reap endless benefits for the future of the Apple ecosystem.

    Benny Ling

    As the resident news editor here at MacTalk, you can imagine that Iíve read pretty much all there is to read about Appleís event last week. I can tell you right now that the commentary falls into one of two camps: itís either those who think the iPhone 5 is a suitable upgrade over the iPhone 4S, or average joe consumers belating how the iPhone 5 ďisnít any differentĒ from the previous phone.

    Before we get into that, though, I want to pin down a few things to do with the new iPod lineup. For starters, itís great to see the iPod touch finally being elevated to be the iPhoneís equal, as far as the display is concerned. Iím still not sure what to think about how the coloured iPod touch comes with a white face-plate, even though the back now comes in various colours.

    And of course, who can forget the popular conspiracy theory that Apple redesigned the iPod nano because it was too close to another product they have under development, i.e. a smartwatch? But think about it this way: the iPod nano isnít just a music player, itís a music player thatís designed for those that donít want to do email, web browsing, or have a few hundred apps with them at all times. Regardless of what you or I think, the iPod nano still has a niche, and it fills that niche extremely well.

    Which, inevitably, brings us to back to the iPhone 5. Yes, Iíll be getting one. My two-year contract is up, and itís time to get the latest and greatest from our favourite fruit company; not because I have no choice in the matter as some would have you believe or that Iím somehow ďlocked-inĒ to Appleís iOS ecosystem, but because Iíve been to the other side ó and believe you me, the grass is not greener.

    Anyone could go on at length about the new iPhone, but thereís already been way too much said that doesnít bear repeating. Instead, Iíll leave you with a quote from the excellent John Moltz which sums up my thoughts perfectly:

    Personally, Iím very excited to get this phone. Other than the introduction of the original iPhone, this is arguably the biggest update. My understanding from people whoíve held an iPhone 5 is that the build quality is even better than the 4 and 4S, if thatís possible. Eventually Apple will just make phones out of unicorn horn and the dewy moisture that collects between Scarlett Johanssonís breasts when she does hot yoga. (Technically, any yoga done by Scarlett Johansson is ďhot yogaĒ but Iím specifically talking about Bikram in this case.) The white one will feature the same moisture collected from Michael Fassbender.
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