i5: iCame, iSaw, iConquered the Tech Market

Last week, the Federal Government announced its latest stimulus plan for the economy: buy the iPhone 5. I’m only half kidding.

In advance of the latest iPhone’s debut, some investment banks estimated that sales of the new handset—and all the peripheral gear and accessories—could amount to adding one-quarter or even one-half a percentage point to the U.S. GDP.

Because we live in a hard-wired world with a 24-hour news cycle, the story went viral and took on a life of its own. Economists crunched numbers. Bloggers wrote reviews. Pundits pundicized. And people lined up, once again, to buy a telephone.

But not me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge fan of all things Apple and have extolled the virtues of the iPhone since I took over this column. My youngest daughter now uses my original iPhone, which I bought shortly after she was born. (She blows me away at Angry Birds, by the way.)

But I digress. Let’s get on to the review. Here are five random thoughts about the iPhone 5.

Thought #1: Size Matters
iPhones have always dazzled because of how much functionality they pack into such a small package. The 5 is downright skinny. It’s much thinner, much lighter, yet somehow feels easier to grip. No complaints here. Well, except for one…

Thought #2: Size Really Matters
Here’s the one big bummer about the new iPhone size: it’s so much thinner that it no longer fits into your battery pack or other carrying case.
Even worse, the new iPhone has a micro-USB port called the “Lightning Port” that promises to charge and sync the phone even faster. Great feature, until you realize that your old sync cords no longer work. This means you’ll need to buy new ones for your car, office and other locations. Huge waste of money.

I’ve complained about this in previous columns. I’m convinced that Apple relishes the idea of helping drive the market for all these small firms who manufacture accessories. Then again, I’m also convinced that the moon landing was staged on a movie set. Let’s move on.

Thought #3: The View Is Spectacular
It’s been a while since Apple introduced a meaningful camera upgrade. The iPhone 5 has one called Panorama, and it’s pretty cool. To use it, you simply turn on the camera and follow a set of guidelines, as you move the camera in a circle.
When the process is finished, you end up with a really great panoramic image. Admittedly, it’s not a jaw-dropping, life-altering feature, but it certainly does improve one of the key uses of the iPhone.
Thought #4: Sounds Good
For years, one of the biggest drawbacks to the iPhone has been the sound. Apple has given us the same tinny-sounding ear buds since day 1; they sound so bad that Dr. Dre’s Beats headphones became a huge business.
The iPhone 5 takes a big step forward with its EarPods. They fit your ears better and deliver much improved sound.

Thought #5: Where’s Google?
The iPhone 5 is also notable for two things that are missing: YouTube and Google Maps. Previous versions included automatic links to both of these applications. You now need to download YouTube as a separate app, and Apple has replaced Google Maps in favor of its own mapping system. The good news here is that Apple’s nav system provides turn-by-turn driving instructions, delivered by the soothing, robotic monotones of Siri.

Perhaps this is the next shot across the bow in the inevitable smartphone Armageddon.

Bonus Thought: Time Is on Your Side
The iPhone 5 has been well reviewed. All things considered, it represents a fairly sizable upgrade across many aspects of the phone. It’s certainly worthy of the new generation.
But I’m in no rush to buy one.
Why? Because I don’t have to. None of these upgrades is so earth-shattering that it demands that I toss aside my perfectly good iPhone 4. I prefer to skip generations on phones, or at least wait a few months to make sure Apple irons out the inevitable software bugs.

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