[Op-Ed] Why the iPhone 5 can’t be considered anything other than a failure

On Wednesday, September 12th, Apple announced their newest version of the iPhone, the iPhone 5. While fans of the iPhone and Apple products in general hailed this as the next “greatest phone ever,” what was unveiled by Apple as the iPhone 5 was merely average by today’s phone tech standards and certainly not a giant leap forward in technology. In fact, the only real “innovation” in the newest iPhone involves a new connector called “Lightning” that serves one major purpose – a blatantly transparent cash grab by an already very well capitalized company. More on this later – but first, an honest discussion of what the iPhone 5 is and (more importantly) what it isn’t.

In the world of phone tech, everyone is always looking for the latest and greatest, the fastest processor, the highest quality screen, the most RAM, the fastest wireless connection, and the biggest amount of internal storage. If you are into smartphones, I mean really into smartphones, these things DO matter to you. Who would buy a smartphone that is worse in every way if a better one is available for a similar or equal price? One of the basic truths of human nature is that we all want to have the best we can get of everything. So when you hold a press conference to announce your new product, most people expect to see something that they haven’t seen before, or at the very least something that is done in a different way. Phone manufacturers releasing phones running Android focus on the hardware specs of their phone to sell product. Apple relies on their millions of devotees to buy their products regardless of whether or not there is a better alternative out there. Very few companies have found success with this business model, but that’s neither here nor there I suppose. The simple point of the matter here is this: if the phone that Apple released on Wednesday was announced by Samsung, HTC, LG, or Sony, people would have laughed outright and said something along the lines of “Hey buddy – 2010 called, it wants its phone back!” Here’s a quick list of the “innovations” in the new iPhone:

4G LTE
Larger 4 inch high resolution display
16, 32, and 64GB models of internal storage (non-expandable)
1 GB of RAM
1080p video recording
New proprietary “Lightning” 9 pin connector
Thinnest smartphone in the world*

So – again, as noted above…if I told you that that this was a phone released by, say, HTC, you’d laugh and point out that phones like the HTC Thunderbolt have had LTE, 4 inch+ screens, and at least 32GBs of storage for over a year now. So where is the surprise or the new idea there? But when I put the words “Apple” and “iPhone” in front of these specs, suddenly everyone loses their minds and begins calling it the greatest phone ever! The claim of the iPhone being the “thinnest smartphone in the world” are patently false, and have been refuted on more than one occasion. The newest connection that the iPhone 5 has may have reducted the size and weight of the phone itself, but would I rather have it have the same form factor or have to shell out another $30 bucks (at least) on top of what I pay for the phone to keep my existing accessories? And the rest of these technical specifications are rather pedestrian…until you compare it to the older iPhone, the 4/4S. When compared to last year’s iPhone, these new phone seems loads better. Why wouldn’t I want double the RAM, a half inch larger screen, and LTE? But…its only in comparison to last years (admittedly already inferior) iPhone model does this new iPhone stand out. This is roughly analogous to my owning a 2000 Ford Escort, and then attempting to sell that 2000 Ford Escort to someone who owns a 1999 Ford Escort. Of course the 2000 Ford Escort looks hot by comparison – its being compared to last years model. But if I was offered a choice between either of those two cars and a 2000 Honda Accord, you’d probably say – why the heck would I want that crappy Ford Escort when I could have this? Everyone would choose the Accord – that is, unless Ford had one hell of a marketing machine working for it.

Listen, I own an iPod, and I recognize it for what it is – a great little music player. But I’d never own an iPhone for many reasons, primary among them the fact that I have a choice to choose something better. And so I do. Anyone who buys a phone because their friends told them to, the marketing department of Apple told them to, or because they honestly believe that the iPhone 5 is the “greatest phone ever” is simply fooling themselves. Those who argue that the iPhone “just works” have never seen my Galaxy Nexus “just work.“ Those who are amazed by the hardware advancements of the iPhone 5 have not stopped to take a look at the Galaxy S3, which is superior in pretty much every single measure. Never before has one company managed to pull the wool over so many peoples eyes. The days of Apple’s motto being “Invent” are clearly long in the past.

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