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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

My first week with an iPhone: a Review

Published: October 5, 2012
Section: Opinions

Every day it feels as though more and more people are buying and using iPhones. As 3G and now 4G networks have become more widespread, Apple has annually released upgrades that, other than the “antennagate” problem with the AT&T iPhone 4, have consistently been steps forward. Just over a week ago, I made the switch to the iPhone.

When, in March, I became eligible for an upgrade, I waited until the new iPhone was released to redeem it. I compared the top quality Android phones with the expected specs of the then-unannounced iPhone 5. Ultimately, my decision to purchase an iPhone came down to whether or not the iPhone would have 4G and certain baseline hardware improvements.

The iPhone 5 delivered. While Apple was a little sluggish to enter the 4G data world, the iPhone 5 being the first 4G iPhone, hindsight shows that Apple effectively waited for AT&T to introduce other 4G phones before releasing its own offspring. For all three supported networks (AT&T, Verizon and Sprint), the latest iPhone offers 4G data. Even if the iPhone 4S had included 4G networking, I’d have waited for a new phone to be released, maximizing the time before it becomes obsolete. Thanks to the 4G, when I’m off campus or otherwise not connected to a Wi-Fi network, download speeds are insanely fast. For example, when I downloaded Spotify to my iPhone, it took no more than a few seconds before I could open the app and begin to enjoy it.

Even while running multiple apps, the phone still runs extremely fast. With about 30 apps running in the background there isn’t even a hint of slowness. It is just as fast with many apps running as it is when none of the apps are open. On my Droid Incredible, often times I would have to turn off background apps because they were draining battery life and slowing down everything. Not only does the iPhone stay fast with many apps, but it’s also extremely easy to shut down extra apps.

With the addition of 4G, the latest iPhone is, in terms of hardware, far superior to the previous 4 and 4S models. The basic hardware components that Apple improved upon in the iPhone 5 are the A6 processor (the main computer chip), which is noticeably faster compared to the iPhone 4S. The new phone also includes a triple-core graphics processor, which powers the visuals, and 1 GB of RAM, providing a good level of memory for users.

These components are in no way more amazing compared to Samsung, HTC and Motorola’s high-end phones, but they are respectable. Because so many of these 4G phones contain the same technological capabilities, it is hard to use specs to measure the iPhone against other phones of similar style.

Additionally, the iPhone is more lightweight than its predecessors. Another cool feature is the added row of icons on the home screen due to the larger screen size. This is a subtle, but worthwhile improvement. My friends who already had iPhones could instantly see the difference, but to the untrained eye it’s hard to see.

There are, however, numerous faults with the iPhone 5. The first and perhaps most notable is the lack of Google maps. Apple publicly apologized for the fiasco that was caused by its new maps app. Luckily, Apple’s map fiasco can be fixed with either the numerous map apps currently available, a hopefully upcoming Google maps app, or even drastic improvements of Apple’s app.

Some of the major hardware flaws are simple defects in manufacturing. These include instances of backlight leaking from the front display and air bubbles that have appeared when pressing the touch screen. While not defending Apple, these flaws are really not unreasonable. Almost every smartphone, video game system and tablet have instances of defective products. So far, nothing suggests that these problems are as widespread as the issues that plagued original models of Microsoft’s Xbox 360.

Additionally, numerous iPhone 5 owners have found small scratches and nicks on the phone right out of the box. For an expensive piece of hardware, one that required middle of the night pre-orders or hours waiting in line to get it on release day, it’s rather understandable for customers to be irked when their shiny new phone arrives with a banged-up exterior. This is a fundamental hardware flaw that is caused by Apple’s decision to replace the stainless steel metal band with aluminum. While the aluminum replacement is a large part of the phone’s lighter weight, that is hardly a good excuse to replace scuff-resistant stainless steel with scratch-prone aluminum. The lower back of the phone is also significantly more prone to scratches in comparison to prior models.

Because of that flaw alone, the iPhone 5, more than any other iPhone model, needs to be protected by a case if you want to keep it looking like new. Because the phone is still very new, not many cases are currently available and those that are, are in short supply.

The new lightning connector, which is the port through which iPhones are charged and connected to computers or other devices, is annoying if you’ve invested in numerous speakers, extra cords and other tech appliances based off of the old 30-pin technology. For longtime iPod/iPhone users, this change makes the iPhone 5 incompatible with almost every accessory that has been made since the first iPod was released. Apple has created an adaptor, but it’s an expensive stopgap at $30 and doesn’t fully fix the compatibility problem. Although, I have a handful of extra 30-pin cords, I still like the small size of the new lighting connector. The change to the new connector makes the charging cord a lot less bulky and hopefully easier to pack on trips.

Another new change is Apple’s new “Earpod” earphones. They are definitely better than the old standard earbuds and are without question more comfortable and superior. The new “Earpods” are a marked improvement, but are nothing compared to Apple’s higher-end earphones or those of other high quality competitors.

There are also some growing pains for those who wish to make the switch from Android to iOS. There are many features that I already miss from my old phone, such as a responsive keyboard and adjustable snooze settings on the alarm clock. Other than those, all of my adjustments are minor and simply part of the change; within another couple of weeks I expect to be fully comfortable with my new phone.

My last complaint regards the name, which a few other people have taken issue with as well. This is the sixth iPhone and yet it’s called the iPhone 5. With last year’s release of the 4S, I admittedly was hoping that this year’s phone would be called the 6. This is without a doubt my most minor complaint about the phone.

With every phone I’ve owned, and this is my fourth, I have always looked for a phone that will be both functional and able to last me the two years that I’ll be under contract before qualifying for another upgrade. Without question, I think the iPhone 5 should last me at least the next two years—just in time for the iPhone 6 or 7.