iPhone 5, Despite Apple Hype, Will Be Disappointingly Conservative

NEWS ANALYSIS: Apple is getting ready to launch the iPhone 5 at an event Sept. 12. Still the new iPhone already lags behind its competition in innovation.

You already know that Apple is launching its new iPhone 5 in San Francisco Sept. 12. You already know that the hype has reached levels unseen since, oh, the launch of the iPhone 4S (which everybody thought would be the iPhone 5).

Secretly, deep down inside, you probably also know that this new iPhone will not be as innovative as you'd hoped it would be.

While there are some very nice improvements planned for the sixth iteration of Apple's iPhone, they're still iterative changes. There do not appear to be any blockbuster features, and most of the features that are at least interesting are not as interesting as some of what Apple's competition is doing. In other words, Apple's conservative approach to hardware updates is putting a limit on what the company can do.

The new iPhone will have a bigger screen. This is information that's been out there for a while, and it's something that everyone has expected. The screen on the iPhone 4S and earlier is now tiny by comparison to what's available to Google Android and Microsoft Windows Phone devices. The emergence of video and imaging as killer apps for phones has made screen size matter a lot. But while the new screen will have a 16:9 aspect ratio needed by video, it will still only be about 4 inches.

The limited screen size is due to the fact that the iPhone 5 will be the same width as recent iPhones. It will simply be taller. Apple may have reasons for limiting the width, such as comfort, but those reasons still result in less viewing area. While the Retina display will still provide lots of detail, no matter how you look at it, smaller is still smaller.

The new iPhone will support faster networking.

The iPhone 5 will support Long-Term Evolution (LTE) and Evolved High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA+), depending on the version. Considering that virtually every other smartphone on the planet has been supporting LTE for a long time, this means that Apple is catching up with the rest of the world, but it's certainly not an innovation leader. Support for faster HSPA+ is also no surprise since every other recent smartphone is already doing this.

Likewise, Apple may also be including near-field communication (NFC) on the iPhone 5-something other phone makers from BlackBerry maker Research In Motion to Samsung have had for a very long time, but there's some dispute about that.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...