Today is iPhone day. You can see the lines outside your local Apple Store and can read about the excitement/ennui/impatience online. In fact, it will probably be iPhone month. So settle in. Last week, with much fanfare but few surprises, Apple announced the details of the latest iPhone. And today, it goes on sale. While little has changed on the software side – Apple has added a number of new features but user interface and experience of iOS are essentially the same as when the first iPhone was announced in 2007 – the change in hardware design is the most significant since the 2010 release of the iPhone 4. As expected, the screen has increased in screen size from 3.5″ to 4″. The cynic in me wonders how much the increase in screen size was influenced by a desire to keep pace with the industry (Motorola, HTC and Samsung all produce flagship Android devices with screens in excess of 4.5″) and how much was a design and interface decision. My suspicions here are borne out after spending a few days iOS 6. There are few changes to the OS that specifically target this increase in screen size. But no matter, with the iPhone 5 Apple has produced another beautiful piece of industrial design – especially the black model which has changed a silver antenna bar for a more fitting black one. The result is a gorgeous, if slightly menacing phone. The design and engineering wizards in Cupertino have also produced a lighter and thinner device while boosting all the internal specifications such as processor, RAM and graphics. Initial reviews speak incredibly highly of the build-quality. Our Connor Keller popped into the Apple store this afternoon (a dangerous assignment for his wallet) for a hands-on with the new phone. He came back blown away by the display, both in terms of size and quality, and the feel of the phone (in his words: “It’s ridiculous. So light. So fast.”). Apart from the screen size, the other big change is the inclusion of LTE wireless data. I’ve yet to use Rogers’ new network in Vancouver, but friends who have report that it is frighteningly fast compared to the 3G speeds to which most of us are accustomed. Indeed, users of the new iPhone on the US network AT&T report faster speeds than Wi-Fi when on LTE. In short, technically and aesthetically, iPhone 5 is a seriously drool-worthy device.
The big question that all iPhone users face is whether or not to jump to the new model. You’ll certainly have time to think about it; so great is demand that iPhone 5 is currently back-ordered until late October. If you are on 2009’s 3GS, and want to stick with an iPhone, then it’s a no-brainer: upgrade. The speed, screen quality, design, and camera will blow you away. Coming from an iPhone 4 the answer is slightly more convoluted. iOS 6 does not bring the full array of new features to the iPhone 4 but the screen, apart from size is essentially the same as the iPhone 5. The camera will be a large improvement and the change from glass to metal back will make for a far more durable device. If Apple was making more use of the larger screen in iOS 6, I’d highly recommend upgrading but as yet the extra real estate is currently just extra real estate. That said, if you can afford it, go for it. It has been two years since the iPhone 4 was released and that’s a long time in the mobile industry. However, iPhone 4S owners probably won’t feel compelled to jump to the 5. Yes, the screen is bigger and the camera has undergone minor improvements but these upgrades likely aren’t worth a renewed contract or $800 for the unlocked device. As for me, will I be upgrading my iPhone 4? Probably not. The LTE chipsets on the Canadian model are not compatible with the UK and European carriers. Given that, with any luck, I’ll be moving in that direction soon and I wouldn’t want to miss out on the LTE party.