After spending a week with the Apple iPhone 5, I have a clear picture of what has improved, evolved, and gone sideways.
Things That Go Sideways
Apple apparently will always be Apple and do things its own way.
-- Lightning port. The Lightning port is a dramatic shift for Apple. It has left behind the 30-pin connector port for a new, smaller port on the iPhone 5. It did this in part to make room inside the iPhone 5 for other components. For anyone purchasing their first iPhone, the Lightning port doesn't matter much. It's just a port for a cable that comes with the phone. The Lightning port will matter to people who've invested money in accessories for their Apple devices. The number of third-party products that use Apple's older 30-pin connector number in the thousands. The Lightning port and iPhone 5 are incompatible with all of them unless paired with a $29 adapter. It's an annoyance for faithful Apple fans, and doesn't fall in line with the micro-USB port used by every other smartphone maker.
-- SIM card. The iPhone 4 and 4S were the first to really popularize the use of micro-SIM cards. The SIM cards in the 4/4S were smaller than the SIM card in every other phone. This made it hard for frequent phone changers or world-roaming travelers to switch out their SIM card for another. The iPhone 5 decreases the footprint of the SIM card even further to a new nano-SIM size. It's the first device to use this new, smaller SIM card. The nano-SIM eventually will be the standard SIM for all phones, but at the moment it makes it nearly impossible to switch SIMs with other devices easily. This will probably only matter most to those who take their phones overseas.
-- iOS 6. iOS 6 probably deserves more than a bullet point, but this much is certain: it's an incremental update that does not make any sweeping changes to the look and feel of the operating system. iOS 6 adds more features, but doesn't make any great leaps in usability or appearance. The improvements to Siri are appreciated, but still far short of Google Now's capabilities. Passbook has promise, but a bit of a hassle to use. The improvements to email, Safari, and other features are all good, but still only incremental.
-- Apple Maps. It's simply not as good as the alternatives. It's not a horror, but there's no doubt that it's a bit sparse on detail and inaccurate in some places. It will get better. In the meantime, use it to do 3D fly-overs of Manhattan. That's all sorts of fun.
The iPhone 5 is an improvement upon its predecessors, but verifies that Apple will likely only ever offer incremental updates to its hardware and software over the years. The iPhone 5 adds much-needed features, such as a bigger screen and LTE 4G, but plays it safe in bleeding-edge tech by leaving out features such as NFC.
I wouldn't recommend you sell your soul and pay full price for the iPhone 5--unless, of course, you're some sort of Apple/tech addict. If you happen to be eligible for an upgrade, though, it's a good buy, especially if you're already invested in Apple's ecosystem.
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