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The iPhone 5: A Disappointing Success

The iPhone has finally made its foray into the land of 4G with the iPhone 5, and Apple fans everywhere have responded accordingly. The latest version of the iPhone has sold over 5 million units as of this writing, beating out its predecessor by 1 million during the same span. No doubt we’ve seen this before: droves of loyal “i-Fans” in lines snaking around Apple stores days in advance for their next hit of iOS goodness. This time was no different; the fans lined up, Apple sold out of its initial shipment, and Tim Cook and his crew made away with boatload of cash. While it may seem like Apple can repeat this cycle ad infinitum, after this launch many fans are calling for less iteration and more innovation from the folks in Cupertino.

Just to be clear: no one is complaining that the iPhone 5 is a bad phone. The reviews are stellar all around; the phone performs up to the high standards of the most cynical hipsters and internet critics. Why then are so many people claiming to be underwhelmed by Apple’s latest baby? Well, for many, a slightly larger screen and the migration of the headphone jack to the bottom do not equate to a full integer model update. Of course, the iPhone 5 is the first 4G iteration of the iPhone, but many argue that the feature should have been included long ago with the iPhone 4S, or even the iPhone 4. Also, iOS 6 is almost indistinguishable from iOS 5, so if you’re not new to the iPhone, the overall user experience has remained consistent but unchanged for the past three generations. Apple used to be at the forefront of innovation when it came to smartphone technology. The first gen iPhone felt like a tricorder in comparison to the other phones on offer at the time. But over the past five years, the competition has slowly crept up in terms of performance and features, and in some cases has actually surpassed Apple in both categories.

While other phones may have had more horsepower, faster network connections, and bigger, sharper screens, the iPhone has been riding two distinct advantages to cellphone supremacy since its launch in 2007. One is the intangible cool hipster factor that comes with owning anything Apple, and the other is the ease of use and intuitiveness of the iOS operating system.

Many people who don’t want to bother fumbling their way through menus and dealing with intermittent performance problems will naturally gravitate towards the iPhone over other Android-based alternatives, but as the masses become more tech savvy and the competition gets better at emulating the iOS experience, this is becoming less and less of a factor. In fact, before the iPhone 5 launch, the number-one selling smartphone in the world was the Samsung Galaxy SIII, an Android device.

This is despite Apple being awarded over a billion dollars in damages from a Korean company in a patent infringement lawsuit involving the iPhone and several Samsung smartphones. Apple may have won the legal battle, but Samsung still has its eye on usurping Apple as the number one smartphone maker in the eyes of consumers. Samsung is spending millions on print, internet and T.V. ads aimed at pointing out the Galaxy SIII’s superiority to the iPhone 5.  Samsung also has recently released the Galaxy Note 2 with its huge 5.5 inch screen, multitasking capabilities, and the new and improved S-Pen peripheral, ostensibly a stylus that allows you to hover over items on the screen to reveal more options, preview videos, and bring up contextual menus similar to right clicking on a desktop computer. These are all examples of how other companies are starting to innovate while Apple continues to play it safe.

Personally, as a past iPhone user and current Android convert, I thought that the iPhone 5 might be the one to bring me back into Apple’s loving arms. While using an Android can be a hair-pulling experience by comparison, nothing Apple has done for the past three generations has gotten me excited enough to switch back. The iPhone 5 is a great phone, but if you’re a geek like me who likes and always wants the newest, latest, and best, it unfortunately falls a bit short of the competition.

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