Tech Report: iPhone 5: What’s The Big Deal?

By September 14, 2012

Hello GeekNation, Andrew back at you.

Well, I’m typing this bleary-eyed and cranky at Casa Bitboy. iPhone Christmas has come and gone, and Santa Jobs (in the person of Tim Cook and Phil Schiller) has left presents for the new iPhone year in our stockings. With apologies to Infinite Jest and the Year of the Depends Adult Undergarment, I’m pretty sure there’s going to be years, fiscal years, and iPhone years from now on, and iPhone years start in September.

So as the sixth year of iPhone begins, what is the new Great Leap Forward?

1. Bigger, better screen: 4″, 1136 x 640 pixels, with a new technology that thins out the display and makes colors more saturated.

My takeaway: I like a big screen. In fact, I like a bigger screen. 1280 x 720 has become my new normal. Love that the new Apple screen is nicer, but there is no substitute for pixels. Apple is showing 80% as much data as a 1280 x 720 screen, and that’s less, no doubt about it. I’m typing this on a 30″ monitor, so as Roy Battie might have said, “I want more pixels, father!”

2. New body style: Very thin (but not the thinnest phone ever, Apple, that was a fib), much lighter.

My takeaway: Yes! Gone is the glass back that made the iPhone 4/4s a fragile, delicate beast. On the other hand, no more iFixit clear backs ( I have one of these on my iPhone and love it. Yes, I have an iPhone. A 4S. I also have a Galaxy Nexus and a BlackBerry Bold 9930. Thinking about a Lumia. It’s a problem. I admit it, which is also the first step to not solving it, it turns out.

3. New connector (“Lightning”): narrower, thinner, reversible, still proprietary.

My takeaway: Bleah. I get why they changed it, the old dock connector was an abomination, but why make everybody go through the hassle of changing to YET ANOTHER PROPRIETARY CONNECTOR! MicroUSB is universal, easy and well-understood. This is greed and control, pure and simple.

4. LTE Data: An LTE radio for true 4G connectivity.

My takeaway: Yeah! I love me some LTE. There are places in Los Angeles I go regularly where I get 40 Mb/s download. None of this half-assed HSPA+ “4G” nonsense, this is a fat pipe pouring bits into my happy gullet where they belong. We’ll see what heavy use does to battery life, but overall, yeah!

5. Faster processor: a new “A6” processor. Apple claims 2x performance over the A5.

My takeaway: OK. I’m more interested in whether they’ve bumped the RAM to 1GB from the 512MB in the 4S. Why doesn’t Apple make this very important specification public?

6. IOS 6: A new OS, with many new features, some of which (turn-by-turn navigation or decline call with SMS, for example) other OSes have had for years.

My takeaway: A nice incremental improvement. I bet the mail client still won’t collapse my folders though. Yeesh.

Overall, I’d say there’s not a compelling upgrade story here for iPhone 4S owners unless 3G data speeds are driving you crazy. You’ll get most of the real advantages of the iPhone 5 when you upgrade to iOS 6. For iPhone 4 users, it might be worth it if you crave Siri whispering sweet nothings or maybe baseball scores at you. For 3GS users, what are you waiting for, place your order now!

Or don’t. It’s just a phone. There! That’s the first step to solving the problem. It’s just a phone, and a lot of people can’t even seem to tell the difference.


Who am I kidding? I’ll have an iPhone 5 before the end of September. You guys are swell, keep reading and let me know if I can answer any questions for you down there in the comments.

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Andrew Solmssen

About me: I am a nerd. I nerd it up currently as an independent computer consultant and stand-up comic, but my nerd history is long. I started by typing in BASIC programs on a TRS-80, progressed to Apple IIs and then PCs and Macs. My first internet transaction was downloading the "Canonical Collection of Light-Bulb Jokes" from an FTP site on a line-printing terminal at the University of Maryland in 1984. My CompuServe ID was 73300,13, and my Slashdot user id is 9448. I still have some Apple DOS 3.3 disks somewhere, and the first USR Courier 2400bps modem I ever owned. I have been to three different Fry's in one day. I can build a new PC in an hour from stuff I have around the house. I started by administrating a Novell 2.15c network and now do Windows, Mac, and Unix. I'm not a comic book geek, or a Star Wars guy, or even a D&D guy, although I can speak those languages. Nerd, that's me. Visit me at,, and