A creative iOpinion* on the iPhone 5

Unless you live under a rock — or in an Amish community — you’ve been bombarded with iPhone 5 banter on every TV network, tech blog and water cooler discussion. Only a brand as strong as Apple could make news by selling “only” 5 million new iPhones its first weekend. So what’s one more opinion, right?

I received my new iPhone last Friday afternoon, upgrading from the iPhone 4. A lot of you reading this probably have the 4S, so some of my comments may seem like old news, but there are plenty of new features. Let me also note that a lot of the new features of which I’m sharing my opinion come from the new iOS, which affects iPhones back to the 4 version.

The new iPhone 5 is slimmer and taller.

Let’s start with the tangible aspects. It’s thinner, lighter and taller. It fits my hand better, though I must admit it does seem awkward as over the past four years the physical structure of my hand has been altered to cup the original size snuggly. Now, my thumb is not used to wandering so much. And because it is so much (noticeably) lighter, it does seem more fragile. I’m sure it’s not. It’s probably a lot like becoming a new parent. At first I was scared to death picking up my son. A week later I’m walking around like a Neanderthal, swinging him by the ankle.

The larger screen is much welcomed. The format delivers a true 16×9 aspect ratio format that just feels right, and movies fill up the phone tightly. Finally, the matte black finish (that’s right, I’m not confident enough in my manhood to walk around with the shiny white phone) feels very contemporary.

Of all the iPhone changes, what I’m most impressed with are the new EarPods. They fit snuggly in my ears, and the sound is absolutely fantastic. Apple claims to have designed more than 100 iterations of EarPods before these were put into production, and I believe it. These are miles ahead of other earbuds.

Regarding the complaints about having to use a new connector, I think Apple is getting a bad rap. Yes, it’s a pain to throw out all those cool docks I’ve bought over the years, but the original connector has been used by Apple for 10 years now! In technology years, that’s an eternity. It’s basically the Abe Vigoda of connectors.

Frankly, the new connector is easier to use, because there is no upside down. With the previous connector, my percentage of attempting to insert it wrong way up first was around 87%. I welcome this change.

As much as I like the physical changes they’ve made, it’s how the iPhone performs that really matters. Form follows function as they say.

So, Siri

The iOS 6 introduced me to a few features I never got to experience with the iPhone 4. I’ve really fallen in love with is Siri. I’ve heard a lot of grumblings about this component, so I went into it with low expectations. After setting up meetings in my calendar, finding out the score of my favorite English soccer club’s game, and successfully getting Siri to refer to me as Baron von Awesomeness, I’m hooked.

It’s not perfect, but it’s just as accurate when dictating a text message to my wife as it is when I fumble around on the keypad. And I have no hesitation in sending a translated audible text to her while driving. Before Siri, I wouldn’t think about texting while toting around a four-year-old. Dictation works with Facebook and Twitter as well. If for nothing else, Siri will be welcome company the next time I’m feeling lonely.

The iSight camera

The hardware and software have been significantly improved. And the panorama feature is fantastic; much better than any of the apps I’ve bought, tried, then quickly erased. I haven’t tried shooting in low-light yet, which Apple is touting as one of the big enhancements with the camera.

Maps on the new iPhone

OK, if you’ve heard of the iPhone 5, you’ve heard about the shoddy map app. I haven’t wandered the far corners of the globe looking for desolate islands with the app. In fact, I haven’t traveled beyond Dallas. But as far as using the app around town, it is aces. The first thing I noticed is it is significantly quicker than Google Maps in loading new areas as you drive. And because it is vector based, you can zoom in with hardly any lag and skip having to wait for Google Maps tiles to load.

The traffic feature worked well for me during the weekend. By far the coolest features are the 3D maps. Being able to essentially fly over Dallas, twist the direction and perspective, all while the app renders the buildings in 3D is absolutely amazing. To me it’s a revelation in digital mapping. This feature is available for major metropolitan areas right now (that I could find). Exploring New York with 3D maps is a blast.

AirPlay

I was an early adopter of Apple TV, and being able to wirelessly mirror movies, photos and games to my living room TV is neat.

Speed

Coming from a phone two generations back, the speed of the new A6 chip was immediately noticeable. Apps open faster, the camera zooms more quickly, and emails load much quicker. I haven’t tried any graphic-intensive games, so I can’t comment on the frame rate. The iTunes Store is a lot more user friendly, Passbook looks promising, and the Do Not Disturb feature gives me more excuses not to answer the phone.

I must admit that at first I wasn’t totally convinced I needed the new iPhone 5, but bought it anyway. After playing with it over the weekend I’m happy I decided to pull the trigger. The enhancements overshadow any shortcomings. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to jump into the car to go buy hundreds of dollars worth of connectors, cases and docks.

Hey, at least Siri can find me the closest Target.

* The Content Director would like to apologize for the headline; his supervisor (the author of this blog) wrote it.

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