I remember a time when Apple's product announcements were exciting. A time when Apple could announce a product that the entire world hadn't already seen every part of and thoroughly dissected and analyzed before the announcement. A time, apparently, before workers in China realized how valuable the raw parts they had in their hand could be and started sneaking them out of the factory and posting photos of them online. Much to the chagrin of Apple, and to the delight of bloggers starving for anything on the upcoming Apple devices.
Except for when it gets announced and we already know practically everything about it, thus making for a relatively underwhelming announcement. Case in point: the iPhone 5 announcement today was unremarkable, as we knew practically everything about the new Apple smartphone, and so the exciting part of the whole event was that Apple unveiled a new widescreen touch iPod Nano to replace the little iPod Shuffle-sized version that came before (R.I.P. Nano Watch).
The modern internet news cycle is entirely to blame for this level of disappointment. In the five years since the the original iPhone was announced the blog industry covering the iPhone, and even the traditional news outlets, has exploded and hungers for any scrap of news about the upcoming devices. Apple's covered more aggressively than any other tech company, with only Google even approaching the level of interest from the general public. When the new iPhone gets headline positioning on traditional wide-coverage media outlets like CNN, up there with much more important things like the senseless and galling death of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya amidst the civil unrest spurred on by a purposefully inflammatory amateur video posted online from halfway around the world; the striking teachers union in Chicago and the 350,000 students not in class because of it; and the rhetoric, ideas, and gaffes of the presidential election campaigns (themselves feeding into and thriving off of the high tempo news cycle), perhaps our global obsession with Apple in particular and the latest gadget in general has gone too far.
Is the iPhone 5 impressive? Absolutely. It's thinner, lighter, faster, longer-lasting, stronger, bigger, and everything else you'd expect from the latest smartphone. Apple's yet again managed a strong technical accomplishment, making a phone that is better in practically every way than its predecessors. But Apple's competitors have caught up, and they're starting to differentiate in ways that Apple would not, making devices that are equally, if not more impressive. The Samsung Galaxy S III is still an impressive competitor to the iPhone 5, and the Nokia Lumia 920 too looks to be a worthy competitor. Apple's still at the head of the pack, but the competition isn't lagging far behind - if at all behind - these days. And that's a good thing.
Personally, as an owner of an iPhone 4S on Sprint, I'm not all that enticed by the iPhone 5. Sprint LTE coverage won't be in my area for some time, and I honestly I've got all the inches I need. If I had an iPhone older than the 4S, or honestly any webOS phone older than the Pre3, I might be seriously eyeing the iPhone 5. As always, the latest iPhone will rarely be a justifiable upgrade for owners of the previous generation, but anything with something older would have a harder time justifying not upgrading - especially as their contracts are coming up for renewal right about now.
As for how this compares to webOS? Well, webOS might be lagging on features, even as it makes the transition to open source, but in our opinion webOS still wins on user interface. iOS by its nature cannot match the fluid gesture-based interface of webOS. I've had an iPhone for some time now and I still find myself swiping across the bottom bezel to go back or switch apps. If I could get an iPhone 5 with webOS on it (plus a bunch of the modern software features of iOS 6, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and Windows Phone 8) then I'd be a happy, happy camper.
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