One Year On. My Experience With iPhone 5

What actually prompted me to write this lengthy review here? I don’t have an answer myself. Maybe it’s to share my thoughts and experience. I believe more than anything, the gadget we call smartphone has transformed the entire mobile industry.

It all started in 2007, when the first iPhone was released. Since then, it changes everything. The way we work, we communicate, the way we read, and much more. Many others joined in the bandwagon, fueled by the explosive adoption rate and the massive potential. Product cycle is shorten. Many new phones are being released into the market faster than ever. In this mad rush, there are more sub-par phones in the market than we can ever keep track.

Despite the relatively short time since the smartphone revolution started, we can see that the market is starting to mature. With maturity, we can able to tell the good ones apart from the bad ones. And there are those that really stand out, those striking qualities and attention to detail are the benchmark for the competition.

I’ve been an iPhone user for slightly less than a year. Though this is my first iPhone, I have gone through three in the past 11 odd months. Having spent most of my waking moments with this phone, I’m ready to share some of my thoughts on it.

The Backstory

Disclaimer: I’m going to use Blackberry as the anchor here, since I’m familiar with it and they were once considered the king of smartphone. On a sidenote, their leadership and products are like a sinking ship now.

Initially, I was a little hesitant on getting any Apple product. I admire the brand, the values, and the people working behind the company. I’m disillusioned by the stereotyping of my peers. The general consensus were Apple products were meant for designers, hipsters, creatives and yuppies-wanna-be. I don’t want to be caught in the company of people who are buying overpriced Apple products. Besides, I take comfort to be able to differentiate myself from the sea of iPhoners, holding resolutely to my trusted Blackberry.

I like the feeling of the feedback when typing with the keypad. I have tried texting several times with the virtual keyboard but it just didn’t feel right. Tried as I might, I couldn’t get used to it.

The Switch

How did it all changed? The combination of my Blackberry behaving weirdly and the fact I’m eligible for a new phone under my current contract. At that time, I was holding on to a 9800. It’s a very competent phone, combining touch screen and physical keypad into a functional (boring) device. Apart from the disappointing app store, it served my needs well. There comes a time though, when things have to part. The phone started to become unresponsive. Sometimes it froze when I’m texting an important message or crafting a memo. Coupled with the pleasant realization I’m free to recontract, I was in a position to decide which phone would best suit my needs.

At that time, iPhone 5 has just been released. Everyone was talking about the larger (longer) screen and how slim it is. I wasn’t sure if that was going to be my next phone. Procrastination brings doubt. Doubt delays action. Days passed and I decided to leave the decision to my partner. She has been using iPhone for quite some time already so naturally, her decision gravitated towards Apple. Few days later, I was among the crowd in line to get their hands on the iPhone 5. So, this marks the start of a beautiful journey with Apple.

Holding It In My Hand

The feeling of holding this device in my hand for the first time is amazing. The weight is evenly distributed. The phone feels light and it’s extremely thin. Running my fingers through the back of the phone makes me appreciate how smooth the aluminum surface is. To me, it’s a big change to come from a functional and solidly built phone like Blackberry to a company that’s obsessed with the finest detail and cares about every interaction the user has with the phone. Apple design everything, because nothing is left to chance. They want customers to experience things and emotions in their controlled environment.

I looked down at the device in my hand. It feels premium, looks great and works wonderfully. It wouldn’t look out of place anywhere. It compliments the well designed spaces and interiors. Such a well thought out designed and the fine piece of engineering should be enjoyed by everyone. There shouldn’t be any discrimination or stereotyping on who should use it. Suit-wearing executives, fishmongers, geeks, nerds, hipsters or grandma. It doesn’t matter. If it’s good, use it. While Blackberry is meant for the keypad fanatics and aimed at a selected niche of audience (executives, and students in the recent years), this is a mass produced device made for everyone.

Specs means little. I tend to read the specs with a pinch of salt because it’s never a good indicator of how the device will perform. It takes a good combination of hardware and software working harmoniously together to create a remarkable device. It takes more than numbers and technical jargon to attract and retain customers. When you interact with the device, everything else just fade away.

On Using It

I never discover the wonder of reading RSS feeds on the go. With the abundance of quality apps like Reeder, it makes catching on news such a pleasant experience. There are no shortage of good apps on the iOS platform. One thing I’m really puzzled why developers choose iOS as their sole venue for their apps, or at least it’s the first place for them to launch. Now I understand. It’s simply because the platform is better than the competition.

Screen: The screen is terrific. There is truly no pixel to be seen and the colors are great. Put it simply, it’s gorgeous. Compare to my previous Blackberry with a screen size of 3.2 inch, the increase in real estate is noticeable. Take it from someone who’s used to lower resolution display and suddenly bumping the resolution up a notch or two, the difference is heaven and earth. With the taller 4 inch screen, I can still retain one-hand operation for most of my tasks but it does get tiring after a while. The need to reach for certain end of the screen like the “Back” button puts stress on the thumb and the rest of the fingers.

Camera: The best camera is the one that’s with you. Lugging a sizable DSLR camera around all the time may not be a feasible option, so we tend to reach for the more portable version – be it a compact camera or our smartphone. Advances in technology has made massive improvements to the capability of phone camera. In the case of iPhone, it loads up really fast. I like how you can get directly to the camera app in lock screen. It may not be noticeable to people who are used to iOS, but for a greenhorn like me, this shortcut is huge. The color reproductions are accurate and natural, and shooting in low light conditions are decent. The depth of field turned out to be really nice and I’m very pleased with the pictures taken with the camera.

Quibbles

My power button malfunctioned after a few months. Apparently, I’m not the only one. Khoi Vinh has the same problem and wrote about it a while back. The phone is nicely chiseled and filed, the surface is flat and smooth but there’s a downside to it – They offer little grip. Even though I’m holding firmly in hand, it doesn’t feel secured and the feeling of it slipping off from my hands is very real.

My Thoughts

It would not be an exaggeration to say iPhone open up a new world before my eyes. In many ways, it’s more than just a phone. The arrays of highly polished apps, a fine operating system and brilliant hardware makes me hard to move away from Apple.