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iPhone 5S and 5C Announced

Posted on Sep 11, 2013

Anybody not living under a rock already had a good idea of what Apple would be releasing at their September 2013 event. At least in terms of the new ‘unapologetically’ plastic iPhone 5C which had been leaked and photographed from every conceivable angle prior to the event and dubbed by the media as the ‘cheap’ iPhone. Turns out they were wrong, it was never meant to be cheap, and it’s not. This had numerous tech sites back-tracking on their words, some such as Mashable even apologising for peddling this false impression. The 5C is a replacement for the iPhone 5 at a price the iPhone 5 would have been had they kept it and discounted it in line with previous generation iPhones. Despite the plastic shell, its spec matches that of the iPhone 5 bar a slightly better camera, support for more LTE networks and a larger battery, this was clearly never intended to be a ‘cheap’ phone. 

So why plastic? Two reasons, increased margins and the ability to make it brightly coloured in order to appeal to the Chinese market who associate colours with certain meanings. In my opinion Apple should have launched the 5C in China whilst keeping a discounted iPhone 5 for the European market. Only time will tell how well it sells but looking at the pre-orders, it’s taken a week for just one colour (pink) to sell out, pretty slow by Apple standards especially considering stock will be tight as a result of launching in more countries than ever before.

Then there’s the 5S, the ‘iPhone Pro’, the new flagship of Apples range. As usual following the announced there were the typical disappointed ‘it’s not a flying car’ or ‘it can’t do my weekly shop and drop the kids off at school’ comments. People seem to forget that even the iPhone 5 is still just as, if not more advanced than any other smartphone on the market today, and this is a year on. Given Apple quite rightly aim to retain usability, they don’t have the luxury of just making it bigger to fit everything in, which no doubt presents its own challenges over the phablet sized competition. Apples ‘innovation’ seems to get taken for granted like no other company, but why is that? Simple, truly useful innovation seamlessly disappears.

I’ll take a short aside here to talk about something I recently found out as part of developing for iOS. Around 12 months ago I decided to ‘try out’ an Android device. I purchased an LTE version of the Galaxy S3 and although it took some getting used to, once I’d gone through the pain barrier I really liked it. Then, after a few weeks, it started to grate on me, almost as though it was a ‘chore’ to try and accomplish anything, even simple things like texting. There was something not quite right with the keyboard; my hand eye co-ordination seemed to have deteriorated overnight. I couldn’t for the life of me type out a full sentence without having to go back and correct numerous words. After trying out a number of keyboards from Swype to Swiftkey I eventually go so frustrated, compounded with numerous other issues (including a hardware issue that left me without a phone at all for 3 weeks), I got rid. It’s only now, nearly 12 months later I find out that Apple, since the original iPhone, implemented something called dynamic key-target resizing in their keyboard. This technology simply increases the invisible ‘key tap area’ of certain letters based on the word you’re typing and what letter it thinks you’ll need next, so even if you miss the letter, you still get it. This is a perfect example of truly useful technology that blends seamlessly into everyday interactions without you even knowing it’s there, it disappears.

So what’s so good about the 5S? Well it got the usual ‘step’ updates including a bigger battery, better camera, faster processor and so on, as impressive as these improvements may be, it’s not really ‘innovation’ as such, everybody’s doing it. What everybody isn’t doing (or at least hasn’t done to date) is put 64bit architecture in a phone. Apple completely blindsided Google and Samsung and the scary thing is, with Android’s adoption rate, it could take them years to catch up, even if they implemented it tomorrow. From Wednesday this week, there’s likely to be a higher percentage people running Apples 64bit capable iOS7 software in one day, than Google’s year old Jelly Bean. Whilst Google frantically battles with slow OEM’s and separating Androids core from manufacturer skins, Apple are already to market.

Then there’s the fingerprint scanner, which aside from being clever in the obvious way, is clever in a more important way than that. It will be blatantly obvious when the competition, like Samsung, implement a fingerprint scanner, that they copied Apple. That’s got to hurt. I’m sure the argument that the technology is nothing new will be used, but in reality, it couldn’t be further away from previous, inaccurate, clumsy implementations that just got in the way of what you were trying to do.

Apple claims its research showed that 50% of users don’t bother with a passcode lock (guilty as charged) and so immediately, the sensor adds a huge benefit to this group of users. Whilst it might be considered a gimmick, it’s ‘gimmickyness’ is actually an advantage as it’ll tempt people to use it, and if it blends seamlessly enough into daily life, they won’t turn it off, unlike face unlock. Yet still despite this huge security advantage, people insist on making up ridiculous scenarios in an attempt to down play its innovativeness. “What if you cut the persons finger off, does it still work?”, well actually if you must know, no it doesn’t. I hope the sensor is an example of how bleeding edge technology can be mainstreamed in order to benefit the lives of everyday people and it’s those everyday people, not the geeks or fanboys that will ultimately decide its fate.

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