Now that a select few have gotten their hands on the iPhone 5 reviews and opinions are starting to trickle in. Many are positive, but more than a few observations aren’t so enthusiastic. Unlike the transition from the 4 to the 4S, the release of the iPhone 5 has brought more than a few significant changes.
To start with, iOS 6 marks the end of the contract between Apple and Google that gave us integrated Google Maps. Apple had been quietly purchasing mapping companies and procuring data in order to have their own product when the contract ended. The wealth of data providing such a service to users offers alone made the effort worthwhile to Apple, but having an ongoing feud with the search giant wasn’t going to inspire Apple to extend the arrangement. Apple’s new Maps App has been the source of much discontent, inspiring one former Apple enthusiast at TUAW to write of his choice to cancel his iPhone 5 order so he could switch to a Samsung handset. As an infrequent user of the Maps App (and a resident of the US, where apparently the new Maps fares best) I haven’t had an issue so far. The same can’t be said for the Google-powered original Maps; twice on long road trips it led me astray, once directing me miles away to the middle of an orange orchard instead of the South Florida hotel I was traveling to.
As more than one pundit has pointed out, Google has a significant head start in the mapping business, and considerably better infrastructure. While Apple followed Google’s footsteps in procuring existing companies for the foundation of their Maps feature, they have yet to adopt Google’s trump card- relying on primary research in the form of the ubiquitous Google Maps vehicles that actually travel the roads, rather than purchased or licensed databases. I expect Apple’s Maps to improve exponentially; the question is if users will see improvement soon enough to keep them from switching to other third party solutions (including going back to Google’s Maps).
Another two-edged sword of a feature has been the new Lightning connector. The need for more space inside the new iPhone’s chassis necessitated adopting a smaller connector, and Lightning’s reversible input means no more swapping the cable around like a USB cord to get it to match the port properly. The new cable has it’s share of critics, however; many have pointed out that overnight Apple has made an entire industry of accessories that relied on the iPod-era connector obsolete (or at the very least in need of an adaptor that for the immediate future only Apple will sell, as they haven’t licensed third parties to make it yet).
To complicate matters, the new Lightning connector won’t work with some accessories regardless of adaptor. The new cable won’t support video out or iPod mode, the protocol used by some accessories (like factory installed car stereos) to mirror your iPhone’s track information. The official Lightning to traditional 32 pin adaptor provides a digital-to-analog converter allowing the iPhone 5′s digital audio out to still work with traditional accessories in some way, but there’s no guarantee that less expensive third party adaptors will do so as well.
There are also concerns about stress on the Lightning port, as many accessories with a dock rely on the traditional 32 pin input’s broad metal head to provide stability as your iOS device sits in the cradle. Some, like the newly-minted Une Bobine use the 32 pin as its sole means of holding the iPhone.
It’s not all doom, as MacWorld has posted that Apple will be releasing HDMI and VGA adaptors for the Lightning port in the coming months. I’d wager that a plethora of cables and adaptors will pop up very soon, spurred on by the iPhone 5′s record setting sales figures so far.
It’s not easy moving beyond the tried and true, but Apple has demonstrated more than once that they will happily bury existing tech, sometimes before it truly becomes necessary (ex: Apple’s stance on optical drives in their latest Macs). My experiences with Google Maps has kept me from despairing over the switch to Apple Maps. None of the other issues brought up to date are deal breakers for me; the iPhone 5 offers far too much value for any of the problems pundits have discussed to be a factor, especially when the rapidly changing nature of gadgetry is taken into account.