The iPhone 5 is, without a question, a popular phone with the mass market. And its popularity is not without good reasons - the sixth-gen device has quite a fair bit to offer, even with the Android juggernauts (you know what we are talking about) and Windows Phone 8 players thrown in as comparison. Of course, it is not one without flaws (is there EVER a flawless product?) but admittedly, it does come close to meeting a lot of people's expectations.
We'll start with its slick industrial design - not much to complain about in that area since the iPhone 5 does look the part of a very modern and fashionable phone. It is very thin and light plus it has a premium look - all of which are factors that play an integral part in customer buying decisions. The chipping issue is a small dent in its design but there's not much we can do about it till Apple issues an official statement. Most users would be pairing the device with a protective cover, so all the critical arguments of its build quality isn't that big of an issue - unless of course you've a habit of not donning your device with a protective case. Admittedly, the iPhone 5 does look too much like the iPhone 4/4S for our liking but why fumble with a design that has worked for Apple? We will come round to answering that question in a tiny bit.
On the software side of things, iOS 6 might not be everyone's cup of tea but it does its job well enough. The iOS 6 doesn't change the iOS experience in a radical way but pushes a few refinements and tweaks that the iOS 5 very much needed - Facebook integration, FaceTime over Cellular, Siri upgrades, VIP inbox and so forth. There are also some additions that we find unnecessary and might very possibly be underutilized (Shared Photo Streams AND Passbook, anyone?). Otherwise, improvements are very incremental and chances are, you are looking at a very similar experience that was first presented on iOS 5. The Maps issue looks set to be a point of contention for some but there are ways to maneuver (no pun intended) around the problem for the time being until Apple gets around to fix it. We can bet this won't be ignored since it's a critical part of the usage experience and it's just a matter of time before it's resolved.
The iPhone is not all bark and no bite of course - the general speed and responsiveness of the iPhone 5 is extremely good. Apple's A6 processor and 1GB of RAM definitely delivers the goods on the iPhone 5, with the phone performing extremely snappy in our testing period. Apple has mentioned that the A6 chip performs twice as fast as the A5 chip in the iPhone 4S and benchmark results support their statement. We can certainly see that the Apple iPhone 5 is indeed snappier than the Apple 4S but not by a wide margin. Battery life wise, users are able to get at least a full day’s use of the phone even with heavy-to-moderate LTE usage and gaming.
Of course, there's also the bigger 4-inch screen. It is one of the best in the market, exhibiting crisp details, true blacks and superb viewing angles under sunlight. Last but not least, the icing on top of the cherry would be in its excellent and snappy 8-megapixel camera with a BIS CMOS sensor and f/2.4 lens.
So what's the question again - oh yes, why fumble with a design that has worked for Apple? That's probably the crux to why most users still stick to the iOS platform and why some are moving away from the classic but rather 'stale' operating system. While competitors like Android and Windows Phone 8 and their manufacturers are constantly evolving and changing the way people use their phones (Live Tiles? Pull-down actionable notifications? NFC photo sharing and payment?), Apple has somewhat reached a comfortable stalemate at this juncture - it's frankly quite unnerving to see the same or hardly-differentiating devices rehashed over and over every year. Yes, they might still be stellar products but it's certainly time for some much-needed innovation or perhaps, even a design revamp. Hopefully next year, we will see more of that in Apple's next iPhone iteration.
So who's the likely iPhone 5 buyer? In our opinion, anyone who wants a top notch cameraphone, ease of use and especially those holding on to iPhone 3GS or older devices. It's also comfortably sized to suit many users across a wide audience with varying hand/palm sizes, so the 4-inch screen might hit just the right sweet spot. The iPhone 5 is going at a suggested retail price of S$948 (16GB), S$1088 (32GB) and S$1,238 (64GB) - yes, it is on the pricier side of things, but when paired with the selected telco plans, the iPhone 5 becomes pretty affordable.