Non-Geek’s Guide to the iPhone 5

This one goes out to all my non-geek friends and family who just want to know if the iPhone 5 is worth upgrading for.

(NOTE: This is strictly a run-down of the improvements in the actual iPhone itself and does not take cost into consideration. If you are still under contract, you’re most likely going to want to wait until you are past your contract period before considering an upgrade since there is an additional cost of several hundred dollars if you buy an iPhone without a contract or before your current contract period is up.)

Below are the improvements included in the iPhone 5 that non-geeks are likely to care about, described in something vaguely resembling layman’s terms:

  • Bigger Display: You can watch a 16:9 (widescreen) video/movie on it without having any black bars or having any of the video cropped. This also gives you room for a fifth row of icons on the screen.
  • Sleeker Hardware: It’s 18% thinner and 20% lighter than the iPhone 4S.
  • More Durable Hardware: The back is once again made primarily of aluminum and not glass or plastic. It does have small ceramic glass inlays at the top and bottom, but ~80% of the back of the case is now aluminum, so now you just have to pray it lands on the back if you drop one without a case.
  • Faster Wireless Data Speeds: It supports all of the currently-deployed fast network technologies with Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon. (HSPA+, DC-HSDPA, LTE)
  • Faster Processsor: On average, the iPhone 5 will be 2X faster than the iPhone 4S.
  • Longer Battery Life: Despite being thinner and lighter and faster, the battery life is improved over that of the iPhone 4S.
  • Slightly Nicer Camera: The camera is still 8MP like the iPhone 4S camera, but there are some nice improvements to the processing that makes it even better in low light, less noise (the source of grainy images in less than ideal conditions). Photo capture is 40% faster than with the iPhone 4S. The lens cover is now made from sapphire, which is much more durable and sharper than the glass lens covers used on previous iPhones.
  • Panoramic Image Capture: It now has built-in panoramic image capture support that outputs a 28MP image for landscapes, etc.
  • Still Photo Capture in Video Mode: You can now take still photos while shooting video—no more missing out on still photo ops because you’re in video mode.
  • HD Front-Facing Camera: The camera used for FaceTime calls is now HD.
  • FaceTime via Cellular: You can now use FaceTime over a cellular connection instead of having to be on WiFi to use it.
  • Smaller Connector Size: The iPhone 5 uses a much smaller cable connection type than previous models, so you’ll need an adapter to connect it to docks, etc. that use the old wider connection type. (Apple will be selling these.)
  • Improved Call and Sound Quality: The call quality should be improved over previous models as the iPhone 5 now has three microphones (secondary and tertiary microphones are used for noise cancelation) and improved speakers in the earpiece and for music and speaker phone use.
  • Prices Stay the Same as Previous iPhone 4S Prices: $199 (8GB), $299 (32GB), $399 (64GB)
  • Best Way to Get One: Apple will be taking a limited number of pre-orders on their web site beginning some time on Sept. 14th. Pre-orders will ship on Sept. 21st, which is also the date that you’ll be able to line up to buy them in Apple Stores and at retail locations of your wireless carrier of choice.

Should you upgrade?

  • iPhone 4S Owners: It’s worth upgrading if you use your iPhone heavily for apps that take full advantage of the phone’s processor, as the iPhone 5 is twice as fast as the iPhone 4S when running most apps and games. If you use your phone primarily to check email, facebook, and play casual games that don’t require much horsepower then it’s probably not a must-have upgrade unless you have a pressing need for the faster data speeds and/or using FaceTime over cellular.
  • iPhone 4 and Older Owners: If you enjoy taking photos with your iPhone but would really like better image quality, then you will want to take a serious look at the iPhone 5, as significant improvements were made to the camera and resulting image quality with the iPhone 4S, and the iPhone 5 has improved in this area further still. If you don't care about image quality or performance, then you’ll probably be happy with an iPhone 4 for now, though iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3G and (if there are still any) iPhone (1st Gen) owners will definitely want to check out the iPhone 5, as significant improvements have been made to the speed of the phones, camera resolution and image quality, and call quality over the past few models.

I'll likely be revising and adding to this advice over the next few days, so check back for additional info if you’re still undecided after reading this. Or, you can dig into all the geeky goodness over at Apple’s site.

Why the Japanese Hate the…Top-Selling Smartphone in Japan?

long time ago in a galaxy farfar away

Actually, in February 2009, in a story titled “Why the Japanese Hate the iPhone”, Wired had this to say:

What’s wrong with the iPhone, from a Japanese perspective? Almost everything: the high monthly data plans that go with it, its paucity of features, the low-quality camera, the unfashionable design and the fact that it’s not Japanese.

Then this happened…

iPhone 3GS Launch in Japan (June 2009) — Photo by Danny Choo (dannychoo.com)

iPhone 3GS Launch in Japan (June 2009) — Photo by Danny Choo (dannychoo.com)

Then the iPhone 4 happened. Then the iPhone 4S happened.

Which brings us to the present day…

In March 2012, The Verge, in a story titled “Apple the number one mobile phone vendor in Japan for Q4 2011”, reports a much improved market for the iPhone in Japan:

Research firm IDC Japan has revealed that the company had the largest share of all mobile phone shipments in the final quarter of 2011, accounting for 26.6 percent of the entire mobile market.

How’d they do it? To borrow from one of Apple’s old slogans, they “iterate different”. Here’s to the crazy ones.

An iPad by Any Other Name…or Number

I find it amusing that the most widely discussed feature of the new iPad, announced today, is the lack of a revision number on the end of its name. While most folks were expecting the name to be either “iPad 3”, “iPad 2S”, or “iPad HD”, Apple is instead referring to the new iPad simply as “The new iPad” a.k.a. “iPad”. There’s no extra noise on the end of the name—just the product name.

As it should be.

Until the iPhone came along, Apple has not been in the habit of including revision numbers in their product names, and the iPhone model names weren’t even actual revision numbers until the iPhone 4 came along. The original iPhone was simply called the “iPhone”. The second iPhone was named the “iPhone 3G” because it was the first iPhone that supported 3G data speeds. Note that the iPhone 3G was the second generation iPhone and not the third generation, as some “normal” people frequently assume, while the third iPhone was the “iPhone 3GS” and the fifth iPhone released was called the “iPhone 4S”. This leaves the “iPad 2” and the “iPhone 4” as the only recent Apple products that have used revision numbers in the public product names.

I believe that Apple only accidentally got into the habit of including revision numbers / descriptors in model numbers for iPhones and iPads because of the decision to include “3G” in the name of the second iPhone model in order to make sure that everyone that fussed about the first iPhone’s lack of support for 3G data speeds was aware that the new model did, in fact, support 3G data speeds. This makes me wonder if Apple would ever have gone down the road of including revision numbers / descriptors in the product’s name if they had been able to include 3G data support in the original iPhone in the first place?

I, for one, am glad they dropped the extra decoration on the end of the model names. While folks new to Apple are confused by the decision, it’s more in line with how Apple typically does things and it simplifies the buying process for the average consumer who doesn’t need to remember to, for instance, ask for an “iPhone 4S” instead of an “iPhone 4” or an “iPhone 3GS”—all of which are still available for purchase new from AT&T. Instead, they can walk in and simply say “I’d like an iPad” or “I’d like an iPhone”, and the sales person can present them with the models currently available and walk them through the differences. Assuming that Apple will also drop the revision numbers from the next iPhone released, this decision may be a bit confusing while the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPad 2 are still available in tandem with the new iPad and the yet-to-be-released new iPhone, but once the older models are discontinued, what’s currently a source of confusion will actually reduce the likelihood that an uninformed consumer will walk into an Apple Store or other shop and ask for one version of the iPhone while meaning to ask for another and walk out with the wrong model.

NY Times Reader for Mac Available. Uses Silverlight? (Update: Not any more!)

The New York Times has released a beta of their Times Reader app for OS X, but they shot themselves in the foot with one poor decision: They chose to develop it using Microsoft’s barely out of the gate Silverlight (MS’ answer to Adobe’s Flash).

It’s really too bad to see big firms make poor decisions like this, though I guess it shouldn’t surprise me.

Here’s hoping someone at The Times sees the light and re-builds the Times Reader for Mac in Flash instead. I’m betting MS paid them a chunk of change to use Silverlight to try and get Mac users to have a “need” for installing Silverlight…and if they didn’t get any payment from Microsoft for doing this, then it’s an even poorer decision.

Update:  May 8, 2009: Times Reader 2.0 sneak peek is announced. It was built with Adobe AIR.

Update: May 12, 2009: The Adobe AIR-based Times Reader 2.0 was released less than one week after the sneak peek was announced.

Time Machine Recovery to New Disk Results

Having seen the option to restore from a Time Machine back-up using the Migration Assistant, I decided to do a fresh install of 10.5.1, then give the Migration Assistant route a go since I knew the restore from Time Machine backup option in the install utilities menu has already been proven to work well.

Once I formatted my replacement drive (a 320GB Seagate “7200.10”, exactly like the drive it was replacing) and taken care of the fresh install, the usual welcome screen launched and my registration info was pre-populated with the data I had entered the first time I registered. Once past the registration screen, the Migration Assistant appeared. I selected the “from a Time Machine backup” option, then clicked “Continue”. I was then prompted to select which items I would like to transfer (choices were “Users”, with the option to select only certain users, “Network and other settings”, “Application folder”, and “Files and folders on ‘Mac OS’”). I selected all options and clicked “Transfer”. All in all, I had 73.2 GB worth of data to transfer, which took around an hour.

So far, the only oddity I’ve run across was the “Tranfser Warnings and Errors.rtf” file that appeared on my desktop after the restore alerting me that I may need to re-install “Norton Utilities”. What’s odd about that is that I had never previously installed it or anything from Norton or Symantec in the first place.

Everything I was concerned about losing is still here (including some prefs and even browser cookies for the eleventy billion sites for which I was dreading having to re-enter login info). iTunes still knew who I was, iPhoto libraries were intact, and Adobe apps were still activated.

Two nice benefits I see so far to using the Migration Assistant restore option instead of the whole shootin’ match route from the aforementioned system install utilities menu:

    1. You get a chance to do a fresh install (which means you also get a chance to apply the latest version of the available updates - a good thing since Apple has pulled and reissued updated updaters a time or two in recent history).
    2. Restore time doesn’t seem as dreadfully long since the restore step is only restoring your data, settings and applications and not the entire OS, log files, caches, etc.

One tip when you’re done restoring (and happy with the results) is to make sure you remember to re-enable Time Machine, as mine was disabled after the restore. Also, if possible, buy a back-up drive for Time Machine use only that has at least double the capacity of the drive(s) you wish to back up. Once you’ve turned Time Machine back on, be sure to visit the options panel to be certain you’re backing up all the drives you want to back up. I have two external drives that were on the exclusion list by default, so my entire music collection wasn’t getting backed up.

Kudos to the folks at Apple responsible for Time Machine! You just saved my hide.

Boot Camp Surprise After OS X Drive Failure

So…last Friday morning, I walked into my home office, sat down at my desk, shook the mouse to wake the screens on my shiny new Mac Pro, and was greeted by a pinwheel of death which refused to go away. I turned the machine off, let it sit for a few and powered her back up, only to be greeted by what sounded like a noisy front case fan and a gray screen. No apple logo, no spinning wheel. Just a gray screen. I was in a bit of a hurry to get to the office and didn’t feel like messing with it, so I just powered it back down and picked back up where I left off once I got home that evening.

No love. Drive was toast. Couldn’t boot into single user mode. Couldn’t see it in Disk Utility after booting from the System Disk. Couldn’t choose the drive from the System Installer. Couldn’t select it to restore to. You get the picture. Toast.

I packed up the drive in a paper wine bag (since I didn’t have any static bags handy…and because I found it humorous at the time) and headed to the closest Apple Store to see if they could swap it out for me. They confirmed it was truly dead, but they didn’t have any replacements in stock, so they ordered one and informed me I’d have to go without my Mac Pro for the weekend.

Rewind to the week after I bought the machine back in March. Fortunately, the first upgrade I ordered was a 750GB drive to serve exclusively as my Time Machine back-up drive…just to be safe. Thank God. I had also purchased a copy of Vista Business…just to live dangerously, but had installed it on its own dedicated disk…just to be safe. After returning diskless from the Apple Store, I fired up my Mac Pro again, this time holding down the Option key, to see if Boot Camp would work in the absence of OS X. Well, what do ya know! It worked. Looks like Boot Camp lives on the hardware and is completely independent of OS X, so Vista booted up without a hitch and I was able to use my machine over the weekend after all…though not with OS X, which is where I prefer to work.

So far, Apple replaced the drive without any hassles and Boot Camp surprised me by working independent of OS X. Next up - Time Machine’s system restore functionality put to the test.

Boot Camp's Hibernate and Switch Feature M.I.A.?

So…today, after the WWDC Keynote was over, I was poking around on Apple’s site to see what new bits they had on their site about Leopard.

I was excited (more excited than I was about anything discussed during the keynote itself) to see a paragraph on the Boot Camp page about a previously undisclosed feature regarding being able to hibernate the active OS and “restart into” the alternate OS instead of having to do a full restart, thus allowing for much faster switching back and forth between OS X and Windows.

Sadly, as I went to the page again tonight to grab the URL to show some fellow Mac users I was talking with in Second Life, I noticed they had removed that particular paragraph, leaving only three paragraphs and a big blank spot where this glorious new feature had been spotted only hours before.

Here’s hoping it returns, as I only use one Windows application (a crappy trouble ticket app) on my work machine and I only need to use it for about five minutes per day, so I typically am spending more time starting Windows in Parallels and waiting for it to quit so I can quit Parallels each day than I spend in the actual Windows application because I don’t want to quit all my open apps in OS X to fire up Boot Camp. This will make my life so much easier. Here’s praying that feature lives on and wasn’t actually yanked.

2007 WWDC Predictions (and First Post)

So now that Apple has already announced the ship date for the iPhone (June 29th) and they went and announced some nice updates for the MacBook Pro already, we’re all left wondering just what they have up their sleeves to announce at WWDC ‘07 next week.

Since my wife just dozed off when I brought up the topic on our walk tonight, I’ll pose my guesses here (for posterity’s sake, since this is my first official post and I suspect there will be exactly zero people who will run across this blog before WWDC actually takes place).

Anywho…

My first and strongest gut feeling guess is that Steve will announce and make available a new version of XCode or some other development tool that can be used by third-party developers to build iPhone apps. Probably not the first person you’ve seen suggest the same, however, I’ll go one further and suggest that the only official way to distribute iPhone apps will be through the iTunes store, which will also allow Apple the ability to require that all third-party apps go through some kind of approval process before being placed up for distribution on the iTunes store.

This will allow the platform to stay as safe and stable as possible without locking it down completely as most have understood Apple to say up until recently.

While I have seen others suggest that Apple will eventually open up the iPhone to third party apps at some point, I haven’t seen (or have missed) seeing anyone suggest the possibility of this “blessing” process and the restricted distribution for apps that I believe will happen.

Other predictions discussed elsewhere are not so exciting, but include things like a newly redesigned iMac., the retirement of the Mac Mini (and, as a result, the possible introduction of the now mythical XMac or whatever label you care to give the long begged for “more powerful, slightly bigger and more expandable than a Mac Mini but not as powerful or as expandable or as expensive as a Mac Pro” Mac.).

There will obviously be some previously unnanounced Leopard features that will have the sheets ripped off them to the delight of thousands of awe-struck developers. I have no guesses here and don’t even care to guess. The ZFS file system will apparently be playing a big part in Leopard, if not as the default file system. Some cool things will no doubt come of that if it is the default file system though.

I’d like to know what you think, particularly regarding the iPhone third-party application blessing/restricted distribution prediction. Comments after the predicted announcement of the same is welcome too. Good? Bad? Indifferent?

And…hello world!