NEWS ANALYSIS: Very little about the iPhone 5 advanced the state of the art in the handset business, but it still looks like a nice smartphone that will sell like hotcakes.
The biggest news about the iPhone 5 is that it has a bigger screen. The iPhone 5 also has Long-Term Evolution (LTE) support, and it's thinner and lighter than previous iPhones. Some apps will take advantage of the larger screen, for example the Calendar app will show five days at a time.
In other words, what Apple announced for the iPhone 5 was exactly what many publications have been predicting would be announced for some time. Well, almost exactly. Most of us had been pretty sure that the iPhone 5 would have near-field communication (NFC), but it doesn't.
Considering that NFC is so ubiquitous that even older BlackBerry devices have this, that's kind of a surprise.
What this means is that the iPhone 5 really isn't a groundbreaking device, despite the mad statements of affection currently making their way around the social networks. The biggest differentiator in the hardware is the Retina display, which you can't get from other vendors, but the iPhone 4S had that already.
Apple lags everyone else in 4G support; it lags most of the Android phones with a quad-core processor; it features the same amount of memory as most Android phones, and less than a few. The iPhone 5 has a new and improved camera that includes a panorama feature, which is very nice, but it doesn't have the sophisticated stabilization system that Nokia announced for the Lumia 920.
So what does the iPhone 5 bring to the table that raises the bar, at least a little? Basically, it's very thin: Apple claims it's the thinnest smartphone available. And at 112 grams, it's pretty light. The 16:9 screen will help with watching movies but virtually every other smartphone already has that.
In other words, the iPhone 5 doesn't bring much functionality that other smartphones don't already have. It doesn't have some features, such as NFC, that virtually every other smartphone has had for a while.
Apple did finally make its FaceTime video conferencing app capable of working over cellular networks, but again, this is something you could already do, even with the iPhone, as long as you were willing to use Skype.
Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.