Why I'm Not Buying The iPhone 5, And Why You'd Be Wise Not To Too


A year ago, the feverish anticipation built up for the latest Apple conference proved unsubstantiated. With many expecting the long-awaited unveil of the iPhone 5, the reveal of a slightly-updated iPhone 4 with voice assistant Siri meant many were left a little cheated. As is tradition, sales told a different story, with consumers lapping up the 4S in droves despite such minute changes over its predecessor. Tomorrow, the cycle starts up again.

But the iPhone 5 is far from the leap that many would have expected. Instead, this the sixth generation of iPhone is a logical step, nothing more. And it doesn't for one moment have me fooled. For once, I feel justified for jumping ship. Once an Apple fanatic and devoted follower of the iCause, the company has done little to persuade me since that a move to Android was unwarranted.

But just to be clear before I go on, by no means do I hate the iPhone 5. In fact, I can admire the beauty of the handset, like all those iPhone models that came before it. I understand, to some extent at least, how each version of the flagship handset can keep posting phenomenal sales the world over (over 25 million iPhone's were sold last quarter alone). And lastly, I don’t begrudge you for having a particular soft spot for the company behind it.

And yet at the same time, I do think the iPhone 5 is an unnecessary purchase. And that’s a sentiment I have a feeling very few will share come Friday – heck, just look at the queues already outside Apple stores, the millions of pre-orders already placed.

But why is that? It’s a question that to my mind remains elusive…

Because whatever has been said of the iPhone 5 to this point, the phone still is only a minor upgrade from the one that came before it, and that a minor upgrade of the one before that. As I made clear in my article on planned obsolescence – How Tech Companies Are Turning Planned Obsolescence Into Planned Success – I find Apple’s business practices are becoming ever more difficult to digest, where incremental (and largely superficial) updates to the formula are passed off as ‘innovative’. “Technology companies are parading planned obsolescence right in front of us,” I wrote at the time, “disguising annual release cycles as ‘revolutionary’ steps for the respective brand.”

As such, the much-mooted bump up in size of the display to 4” from corner-to-corner is a nice addition to the iPhone slate, but few could argue it is anything more than a necessary step in keeping up with its rival competitors. Who, it has to be said, have become accustomed to making screens ever-larger and with even more pixels per square-inch. Bigger is better, don't you know?

An extra row of Apps will likely be lauded by Apple fan-boys the world over (good for you), and an added half an inch, however small that sounds, will give developers that bit more room to play with. It's nice to know the upgrade now means you can watch 16:9 films without black bars taking up valuable screen real estate above and below the image, too. And yet, the new display isn't really anything to write home about either -- even at four inches, the iPhone 5's display is still at the lower end of the sliding scale of screen sizes. The resolution, meanwhile, tops out at 1136 x 640 and will prove unlikely to trouble the likes of Motorola with the Razr HD (4.7-inch, a HD screen of 1280 x 720) or Samsung to a lesser extent with the S3.

But the screen isn't the main problem I have with the iPhone 5. Rather, it's the sheer arrogance of the company behind it... As Jimmy Kimmel observed in his case study on the streets, people will believe what they want to believe about a new iPhone, no doubt bred by the hype surrounding each Apple announcement, even if that means they’re own perception is skewed. Apple knows as much of course, getting away with the most minimal of upgrades with the knowledge we’ll lap it up in our droves anyhow. Which means that the iPhone 5 is yet another safe, reliable but ultimately unremarkable upgrade.

But don't take my word for it; just compare the iPhone 5 with the iPhone 4 that saw release over two years ago now and the picture becomes much clearer. The upgrade to the A6 processor boosting the power of the phone (2x faster CPU power than the 4S, don’t you know) is a considerable improvement, as is the addition of 4G LTE; but other than a largely-redundant voice assistant and half an inch of added screen space, there’s very little to get excited about here. The design is more or less the same, too, with only a two-tone back and aluminium chassis to differentiate itself to the design of the iPhone circa 2010. I’ll pass judgement on iOS 6 for now – the iPhone 4 once faithfully by my side has been replaced with the S3 – but early reports, and a quick scan of the OS’s new features, suggests Google is unlikely to lose sleep over Apple's OS v6.0.

Innovation?Furthermore, all the while Apple continues to dismiss removable batteries and external memory cards otherwise used to boost storage capacity without the need to sell your soul to the Apple devil. While the decision to ditch the 30-pin connector is yet another insult to injury for the ever-faithful fan base, with adapters available from the official UK Apple Store another purchase decision to make to avoid your 30-pin-sporting accessories becoming defunct. At £25 a pop (ridiculous, for a cheap bit of plastic), that’s yet more pennies you’ll likely have to put aside for the update.

But who am I kidding? Speculating that the latest iPhone will go on to sell millions and be a tremendous success for the company is like predicting that Christmas will come this year. People from all over the globe are infatuated with Apple in ways I don't entirely understand, and they'll no doubt continue to be for years to come, iPhone 6 and so forth. I just wish sometimes that certain members of the devoted would look beyond the walled garden - there's a whole world out there just waiting to be discovered...

Richard Birkett