For those of you that haven’t yet transitioned to a smartphone, I won’t go into all the reasons why they are awesome, but I would certainly recommend giving one a try. I know some of you are thinking: they are too complicated – why do I need email on my phone? – I have no use for silly apps. Don’t be intimidated. If my Mother can operate an iPhone, so can you. The smartphone is (in my opinion) the single most important piece of consumer technology to enter our lives in the last 5-6 years. Just as our blog is aimed at making your life easier through various kinds of technology, smartphones have made everyday life easier, changed the way we take care of everyday tasks and have even made doing mundane things just a little bit more fun.
So fast-forward to last Friday. Procrastination was at an all-time high. I wasn’t in the mood to study or be productive in any way, and it just so happened to also be the day that the new iPhone 5 was being released in stores. I was eligible to upgrade from the iPhone 4 but although I do consider myself an early-adopter I am NOT a fan of waiting in line for hours just to get my hands on the latest and greatest phone. But I had researched it a lot online and was prepared to take the plunge. I didn’t think I’d face Chicago or New York-like crowds so I figured I’d drive over to the New Orleans Apple Store and waste a couple of hours looking at the phones and/or eating beignets at Cafe du Monde. And if the line wasn’t too long and they had them in stock – maybe grab a shiny new iPhone 5 for myself. This particular Apple store had a very organized process for handing out the phones but as usual there were about 567 blue-shirted Apple employees aimlessly wandering around the store while only five of them were ACTUALLY helping customers. This I will never understand, but I digress. Overall it wasn’t super crowded though – and minus a HIGHLY annoying Apple salesperson trying to get us to do the “wave” in line, I only waited for about an hour and it was a fairly painless process.
- Form Factor – the iPhone 5 hardware (the actual device itself) is thinner, noticeably lighter and a tad longer than the iPhone 4 and 4S. The added length honestly isn’t that noticeable when using the phone, and it allows for an extra row of icons on each page. It’s available in black and white, and really the only drastic cosmetic differences are the back of the phone and the new charging port (which is annoying because now your old chargers will no longer work). I think the new design is slick and it eliminates the all-glass back of the previous models. You’ll also get a new (and slightly better) set of headphones in the box, but in my opinion they are still kind of cheap and junky.
- Software – the iPhone 5 runs Apple’s new iOS6. iOS is just Apple’s fancy abbreviation for the operating system that runs your phone. Just like Windows or Mac Snow Leopard, Mountain Lion (or whatever other strange animal names they use), run your computer and allow it to be more than just a big metal box sitting on your desk. Both the iPhone 4 and 4S can be upgraded to run this new software version, however the iPhone 4 can’t take advantage of all of the new features (mainly updates to Siri – because the iPhone 4 doesn’t have Siri, and turn-by-turn directions in the Maps App). Here’s a complete list of all of the changes. I’ll highlight the major ones:
- Apple Maps – this one I’m not psyched about. I LOVE Google Maps and use it almost every single day. While it makes sense that Apple cut ties with Google (they ARE competitors after all, and Google provided Apple with only the most basic version of Google Maps) their new proprietary Map app is nothing short of awful. I haven’t personally experienced any massive issues, but I also haven’t used it very extensively yet. We do finally get turn-by-turn voice navigation, so as long as it doesn’t direct me off a cliff this is a welcomed addition. If you’re interested, this article pretty much sums up the amount of fail that is going on in Apple Maps right now. And most of you probably aren’t familiar with the “Hitler Reacts” YouTube video that people have edited to poke fun at everything from the iPhone to Tim Tebow, but someone put together a pretty funny one to rag on Apple Maps as well. It’s worth a watch. Disclaimer: I am not advocating Hitler, just the video.
- Siri on Steroids – I didn’t have Siri on my old iPhone, but apparently her capabilities have been upgraded. All I’ve asked her so far is where I can find good pizza in NOLA, and how to get to the NOLA Lawn Tennis Club. I’m sure she will be wonderful for further procrastination as the semester goes on.
- Deeper Facebook Integration – Anyone with an iPhone knows how annoying it has been to post photos to Facebook. In Apple’s last major software update we saw deeper Twitter integration, which gave us the ability to take a picture and Tweet it directly from the Camera app for example. This is essentially what has now happened with Facebook – and you finally have the ability to post a status update or picture directly from the “Notification Center” or the regular Camera of Photo apps instead of having to go into the actual Facebook app. This was a huge gripe of mine, so I’m glad they addressed it.
- Passbook – this is a totally new feature which essentially aggregates loyalty cards, boarding passes and gift cards and makes them easily accessible and scannable if/when you need to use them. I can see this being useful, but it appears to be limited to certain vendors at this point. I’m sure Apple will expand the compatibility, but we’ll have to see as time goes on.
- Do Not Disturb – This isn’t a feature I thought I would use but it’s actually pretty cool. It allows you to silence all of your notification sounds between certain hours (perhaps 11 pm – 6 am) – but gives you the option to allow the calls from your “Favorites” and “Repeated Calls” to ring out loud like normal (think: in case of an emergency and the same person calls you a couple of times in a row trying to reach you).
- Other little things: Panoramic camera option; Facetime over your cell phone provider’s network instead of just WiFi; a “VIP” email inbox that will star and separate emails from your carefully selected BFFs.
Honestly, if you already own an iPhone 4S it’s probably not worth upgrading. Even with the older versions of the hardware you’re able to get the new software, which is where the majority of the changes are found. However, if you have an iPhone 4 it’s a worthy enough upgrade, and if your contract is up you’ll be able to get a discounted price on the phone from your carrier. Keep in mind that the NOLA Apple store was sold out when I was there two days ago, and I know shipments from both the Apple Online Store and Verizon stores are backed up for a few weeks as well.
As another note – I have several friends who have NEVER updated their iPhone software, never backed up their device and don’t sync their device with their calendars, contacts etc. While it’s definitely not necessary to do any of this, these capabilities are what make smartphones different from that Razr you owned 7 years ago, so it may be worth at least learning what it’s all about. I know these processes can be confusing – they still are even for me at times – so we’d be more than happy to post some tutorials on how to do any or all of these things.
It pained me to see four women at the Verizon store on Tuesday “upgrade” to the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S thinking they were getting a new phone (I know this because I overheard their conversations with the Verizon employees). While I know older models may be slightly cheaper (I believe the iPhone 4 is now FREE with a 2-year contract), and as a poor student I can understand everyone’s desire to save money, if you’re going to own a phone for 2+ years why not at least consider getting the latest version instead of one that was technically released two years ago. If you like the looks of the older version better that is one thing, I just hate seeing someone make a decision like that simply because they aren’t aware of all of their options. That being said, we don’t want anyone to feel pressure to be an ultra-nerdy tech geek and spend all of their money on new technology, we just want to expose you to all the possibilities so you have the chance to explore things you may interested in trying. So if you just like having an iPhone or Android because it looks cool and you can check Facebook and play Words with Friends – then that’s perfectly fine too!
That’s all I’ve got for now – if you have any questions about the new iPhone 5, an older iPhone model or want to know about anything I didn’t specifically cover just drop us a comment!