Apple Watch

News from the Apple world

Mac Planet: What's new in the iPhone 5

47 comments

Well, it doesn't make coffee, dance, sing Hallelujah or 'completely redefine the smartphone'. After all, and despite protests to the contrary, Apple already did that with the first iPhone.

To qualify, yes there were 'smartphones' before iPhone 1. But they hardly mattered in the marketplace. And those who like to get into their systems, or at least maintain that they do, will find nothing to love in Apple's new iPhone. It's no Android.

Nevertheless, it seems quite a few people have found plenty to love. Apple announced the iPhone 5 already sold two million units in the first 24 hours since pre-ordering for the device become available in countries where that was possible. That more than doubled the previous record, set during the launch of the iPhone 4S of one million preorders in the first 24 hours. Demand has far exceeded supply and while many customers will receive their 5s on Friday (in the US) as scheduled, those who ordered later may not receive their devices until October as manufacturers struggle to keep up.

The money people reacted too. According to The Washington Post, brisk trading pushed Apple's stock to another record high on Wall Street, opening last Friday with a record stock price of US$689.97. By mid-afternoon, Apple's stock had climbed above US$690 and closed out the day at an impressive $691.28, having reached US$696.98 at its highest point.

Then shares of the company rose past US$700 in after-hours trading on Monday after closing at US$699.80.

But even if this isn't the dream device of some users' most fervid fantasies or the dangerous kill-all competitor of others' worst fears, it sure does have some nice features. Check out Apple's gallery of pictures taken with its new camera, for example. Pretty impressive, particularly when you click the 'View at full resolution' button.

Some smartphones might have better cameras, but Apple specialises in making things usable. In this case, I expect the camera will have pretty good automatic exposure and balance built, just as every Mac monitor is largely calibrated already, out of the box. (But of course, I haven't tried an iPhone 5 camera myself.)

The new Apple EarPods are getting glowing reviews, too, at least from Apple commentators. So iFixit pulled some apart to see how they're made. It took Apple three years of R&D to design the EarPods, according to Apple, and they tried to make them to fit most ears - no mean feat.

According to iFixit's teardown, Apple uses a single driver to power the EarPods, although it's claimed the EarPods will perform at the level of higher quality, multi-driver earphones. iFixit also noted the EarPods boast "significant improvements in durability." The new earPods are not iPhone 5-only - they also come with the new iPods.

The new EarPods have a unique (not for long, as the copyists line up) shape, true - they also have three little holes. Why? It has to do with speaker diaphragm movement and the airtight seal created with your ear canal.

Most earphones need to literally plug up your ear to sound good and to exclude some external sounds. That's why many earphones come with different earbud attachments, so you can find a snug fit. But with most earphones, that seal creates a vacuum that impedes the speaker diaphragms from making outward progress when they move back and forth. The holes in the EarPods mean the vacuum is no longer there, giving the speaker diaphragms more mobility - which corresponds to better acoustic performance.

Removing the vacuum also eliminates the problem of a thumping sound every time the earphone cord whacks against something.

The three holes should also allow you to make phone calls more naturally. Normally inline-mic earphones make the user's voice sound weird because of that airtight seal. By allowing more motion in the ear canal, you should be able to hear your voice more naturally as some sound is allowed to resonate back to your eardrums.

The 5's new A6 chip is fast. It's powered by Apple's custom-designed 1.2GHz, dual-core chip A6 chip, the first Cortex-A15 class CPU to market. According to Geekbench 2 benchmarks from PrimateLabs, an iPhone 5 running iOS 6 with its new A6 processor,achieves a total score of 1601. The average score for the iPhone 4S is just 629 (the new iPad achieves 766).

There's only one smartphone faster right now: the Samsung Galaxy S III.
Over the weekend, Linley Gwennap, who heads the Linley Group chip consultancy, posted a brief history of Apple's chip development. Stressing that the A6 is Apple's first 'from scratch' CPU design, Gwennap says Apple is not likely to stop there. "To keep pace with competitors using ARM's own cores, the company will have to crank out a new CPU design every couple of years."

Apple didn't update the bumper case for the iPhone 5. It no longer needs it. The original bumper for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S helped solve antenna attenuation issues (or, more popularly, the 'death grip') which could cause signal drop. Also, some fragility - the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S had two large panels of exposed glass. Neither of these glass panels were flush with the metal frame of the handset, but were exposed all around. That means they could crack and splinter if you dropped your iPhone. The Bumper protected the edges of the glass.

The new iPhone 5's design solved both these design problems. Instead of an antenna that wraps around the entire handset, the iPhone 5 has two antennas that aren't connected. The iPhone 4S's fragility issues have largley gone away with the iPhone 5 too, since all the glass of the iPhone 5 sits flush with the metal band wrapping the device. Also, iPhone 5 uses Corning's stronger Gorilla Glass 2 (20 per cent stronger than the glass of the previous iPhone). There is a lot more detail on Cult of Mac.

But don't worry, I'm not going to list every single feature of the new iPhone; many sites have done so already, for example T3.

But also, iOS6 is almost upon us (and might be available by the time you read this), which should make iPhone 5 better still.

If you're interested in the evolution of the iDevice system from Mac OS X, that's available too.

But some people will never be satisfied. A story did the rounds that Apple would be including a free 30-pin adapter with the iPhone 5, since it has a new, smaller connector port. But I thought this extremely unlikely. It would be a US$29 item. Sure enough, it has been confirmed as a mistake: Apple isn't giving away free adapters (has Apple ever, when it makes people change their connectors?). Queue gripes from all those who have already invested in plug-in devices for the last-gen ports, which happens every time Apple changes a port, and Apple has almost always been blithely unconcerned about the adverse reactions. (Note that optional video-out adapters are said to be on the way).

Luckily, for once, my two-year Vodafone contract will be up by the time it's on sale in New Zealand, and yes, I do want one.

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 30 Dec 2014 00:09:11 Processing Time: 435ms