The real problem with the iPhone 5
The problem with Apple’s latest gadget isn’t the device’s hardware but rather the fast-ageing operating system that powers it. By Craig Wilson.
Despite the critics decrying the lack of a “wow” factor around the iPhone 5, preorders for Apple’s newest handset have already sold out in the US. The company will move millions of them, despite the update from the iPhone 4S being distinctly evolutionary rather than revolutionary.
It’s a solid phone — an enhancement over what is already, let’s admit it, a very good and market-leading product. Rather, It’s the software that powers it, iOS, which is becoming problematic. Despite a new update this week, in the form of iOS 6, Apple’s mobile operating system is falling behind its closest rival, Android, and may even be slipping behind — gasp, horror! — Windows Phone.
While Android offers widgets with live information pushed to users, and Windows Phone offers “live tiles”, iOS remains a grid of largely inactive icons. These icons could have become the live tiles of Windows long before Microsoft unleashed its come-from-behind operating system.
There’s comfort in consistency, and iOS is certainly consistent. But it’s also become a little dull. Looking through iOS 6’s features list, it’s hard not to feel like Apple’s operating system is playing catch-up with Android. Top of the list is Apple’s Maps, which replaces Google Maps. It’s essentially an exercise in giving its rival, which develops Android, the middle finger.
The rest of the updates are yawn-inducing, too: greater Facebook integration; the ability to share selected streams of photos with other Apple devotees; card, ticket and voucher app Passbook, which won’t work in SA; and improvements to Mail and Safari, both of which most power users have long since abandoned for Sparrow or Gmail and Chrome.
Apple needs to shake things up a little. More extensive iCloud integration does not a revolution make. Icons are an outdated means of interacting with a smart, always-connected device. I resent having to dig into each and every app when I only want a snippet of information from it.
Though Apple can’t simply lift the idea of dynamic tiles or widgets wholesale from its competitors — its rivals will have it in court in a flash — it didn’t stop the company introducing an Android-like pull-down notification menu in iOS.
Even dynamic icons would be a start. How is it that the calendar icon can show today’s date without my having to open the calendar application — much like the Google Calendar favicon in a browser — yet the weather app’s icon always reads 23 degrees?
Apple will sell iPhone 5s as quickly as its Asian contract manufacturing partners can make them. But if it doesn’t overhaul the accompanying operating system in a much more profound way, it will be left behind. The mobile industry is fast-moving and ruthless. A fall is always a short step away.
To maintain its momentum, Apple will need to ensure that iOS 7, when it is released in 2013, is as radical a departure from what went before as Windows Phone was to the older Windows Mobile. — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media