MediaFile

Why I won’t be getting an iPhone 5

September 21, 2012

Thousands of people will be “the first” to get the new iPhone 5 today. I won’t be among them. I’ve had every model of Apple’s revolutionary handset since it was first unveiled five years ago — upgrading even if my phone contract hadn’t expired yet — and, like the first-time parent of a toddler in a public place, am in a state of panic the moment I don’t know where my iPhone 4S is.

But I am skipping this upgrade. And while Apple is already setting sales records (again) with this launch, I’m seeing this milestone as the beginning of the end of the smartphone as the dominant mobile device in our daily lives.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not abandoning the iPhone, or any smartphone — at least not yet. I’m not even saying my iPhone 4S will be my last Apple handset, or that the smartphone won’t endure, even if only as a commoditized device.

Mine isn’t so much iPhone fatigue as it is ennui. And through the haze of that boredom there’s the gallop of a new horseman.

The iPhone has become such an appendage it is easy to forget that much — if not most — of the iPhone euphoria is because of the software, which also gets a (free) upgrade today and is compatible with iPhones made for the last three years. The 4S is plenty fast, takes a great picture, has a nice display and was the apple of Apple’s eye one short year ago. It introduced Siri (improvements in part of that free upgrade), arguably now the last real innovation for the iPhone and the first really important one since the retina display.

The bigger screen on the iPhone 5 is nice enough (check out any one of a number of Android phones already on the market to see if 4 inches diagonally is that much wicked better than 3.5 inches). It might as well be 4G LTE-compatible, even if that data speed standard is still spotty, even in the densely populated areas it is targeted for.

But regardless of whether the iPhone’s upgrades were drastic or marginal, the early-adopter instinct to upgrade to the newest device every year no longer applies. There’s an abundance of powerful phones already out there now, and it’s tablets — not phones — that are really innovating.

Seven-inch tablets are the ones that’ll end the smartphone’s dominance for our hearts and minds. The first models that aren’t dead on arrival have begun to appear, giving Apple’s iPad its first real competition and consumers their first real alternatives. Smaller tablets are just as functional, and more portable — by definition, of course. They are actually pocket-size, unlike the iPad, but not small enough to be not-better-enough than a phone. The Nexus 7 I’ve been using lately makes the iPad I still own feel heavy and clunky. And if those iPad Mini rumors hold up, Apple itself will be downsizing. I predict sales of that model will overtake the 10-inch iPad in fairly short order as consumers get used to its advantages over smartphones as well as larger tablets.

That is the way of machines. They get smaller without compromise by also getting more powerful and more efficient. Desktops are now specialized devices, a purchase you feel compelled to explain because notebooks are powerful and more flexible and cost about the same.

We are still at the very leading edge of this curve, but powerful, light tablets will become an even more omnipresent device. It will prompt many to wonder, Why do I need a phone that does a million things and a tablet that does a million things? And why do I need to buy a new phone once a year?

And the conclusion, for many, will increasingly be that the phone is just an app, but the tablet is a platform. Smartphones could be a lot dumber, and in a small-tablet world, we wouldn’t suffer.

Smartphones — the iPhone in particular — have become iterative not only because of a natural innovative lull (big ideas are rare) but also because sometimes it makes sense not to go too far too fast. (Apple’s profit motive also has something to do with it, and of course, there are more potential converts than upgraders.)

Horace Dediu put it best:

Disruption theory has taught us that the greatest danger facing a company is making a product better than it needs to be. There are numerous incentives for making products better but few incentives to re-directing improvements away from the prevailing basis of competition.

I’m not entirely ready to downgrade my phone for something that just makes and receive calls, sends quick texts, gets that picture that would otherwise get away. But I am even more sure of where things are going than two years ago, at the dawn of the tablet era.

I’m taking one small step, not exactly backwards, but sideways. I’m not taking a pass because the iPhone 5 isn’t innovative enough, but because what passes for innovation in the phone department is small potatoes compared with what’s happening in tablets.

And that’s why there will be no new iPhone for me.

PHOTO: John C. Abell

Comments
15 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

John, ipads will never replace smartphones. The smartphones are getting bigger, better and faster, Iphone is a very big hype and their marketing teams deserves kudos for this.
When bloggers are “paid” to write the whole concept of a blog is defeated.
Iphone is for people who do not want to challenge their minds, it is totaly controlled with the paranoia of intrusion. Android is a good for people who want to be a little imaginitive, and a lot more accesories that go with it. Flexible and more compatible with a lot of media streamers out there. So for now I will stick to my android and my wife will continue with her iphone.
Reminds me of the days when we created this phenomenon MS operating systems by Bill gates, crushing all other operating system that came along and fell wayside, and where are we now, it’s either MS or Apple.

Posted by politicaljunkie | Report as abusive
 

Intellectual onanism.

Posted by Eideard | Report as abusive
 

I’d prefer to leave the office behind me when I’m not at work. For my family’s sake, I’m on call 24/7 with my ‘dumb phone’. Were it not for that, I’d happily toss it in the nearest rubbish bin.

The ability to watch TV 24 hours a day, whether on a screen either 90″ or 2.5″, seems to be the current version of The Great American Dream. To what shallow and pointless depths has our once great society sunk?

Posted by pax_vobiscum | Report as abusive
 

Wow you keep apologizing so much in this article… Worried about getting fired or something?

Posted by StigTW | Report as abusive
 

intriguing, great foresight.

Posted by jakecameron | Report as abusive
 

generally a cool article, with good points and observations.
i suppose the thing that annoys me when following all things tech, news, developments, etc. is the tendency media, consumers, pretty much everyone, to approach topics like this with typically elaborate ‘analysis’ of the state of tech, what ‘will happen’, which devices will be ‘significant’ more than others, blah blah.
there seems to be this incessant need to categorize everything, all devices, uses, needs, such that one then has to ‘determine’ which products are going to be relevant, or more relevant than the previous iteration.
i look at it purely rationally and organically. as in any industry, there will be huge steps, and in between there will be innovations, and, yes, style changes. but i disdain the fad-minded, group-think approach, and hence, the categorization analysis. rather, as innovation continues, with some leaps here and there, the will simply be MANY devices that will do pretty much the same things. they simply all have screens, keyboards of some type, and general physical characteristics. you simply get what fits your circumstance. if you like a big screen and comfy keyboard and it looks nice, then get a desktop… rather than proclaim ‘desktops are out’. same rationale for getting a laptop, or a smartphone, or a tablet, big tablet, small tablet, tablet that turns into a laptop-esque device, etc. etc. etc. get the point? they’re just devices that function the same way. there’s no need to segment and categorize and compartmentalize them according to what the latest bullshit jump-on-the-bandwagon crowd is rushing out to get. just get what works for you, not claim to know what’s going to work for everyone, until the next thing comes along.

Posted by patric627 | Report as abusive
 

Well, we will just have to see now, won’t we? I gave up my iPhone for an Android device and the battery really STINKS! Apple has their stuff together for the battery issues that affect the other Android phones.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive
 

I’m not sure what kind of pants you wear, but a seven-inch tablet doesn’t fit in any of the pockets of the pants that I wear. I realize that I might be in the minority, but I use my iPad primarily to read, whether it be e-mail, media sites like this one, Kindle books, or digital versions of magazines developed specifically for the iPad. For those uses, I much prefer the larger 10-inch screen and am willing to lug around the extra half-pound or so.

Posted by SoCal_R | Report as abusive
 

apparently, you don’t allow comments on your commentary(?)despite the presence of a comment box.
odd. too bad, i thought the one i submitted yesterday was rather cogent regarding the subject of your article.

Posted by patric627 | Report as abusive
 

Who needs any iPhone, for that matter, especially considering how expensive they are?

There are plenty of cheaper devices out there with similar functionality.

Posted by mfw13 | Report as abusive
 

to each his own, John.

Posted by RobinLee | Report as abusive
 

just one last attempt to get a pretty cogent comment printed, tho apparently mr. abell doesn’t like comments…

generally a cool article, with good points and observations.
i suppose the thing that annoys me when following all things tech, news, developments, etc. is the tendency of media, consumers, pretty much everyone, to approach topics like this with typically elaborate ‘analysis’ of the state of tech, what ‘will happen’, which devices will be ‘significant’ more than others, blah blah.
there seems to be this incessant need to categorize everything, all devices, uses, needs, such that one then has to ‘determine’ which products are going to be relevant, or more relevant than the previous iteration.
i look at it purely rationally and organically. as in any industry, there will be huge steps, and in between there will be innovations, and, yes, style changes. but i disdain the fad-minded, group-think approach, and hence, the categorization analysis. rather, as innovation continues, with some leaps here and there, there will simply be MANY devices that will do pretty much the same things. they simply all have screens, keyboards of some type, and general physical characteristics. you simply get what fits your circumstance. if you like a big screen and comfy keyboard and it looks nice, then get a desktop… rather than proclaim ‘desktops are out’. same rationale for getting a laptop, or a smartphone, or a tablet, big tablet, small tablet, tablet that turns into a laptop-esque device, etc. etc. etc. get the point? they’re just devices that function the same way. there’s no need to segment and categorize and compartmentalize them according to what the latest vacuous, jump-on-the-bandwagon crowd is rushing out to get. just get what works for you, not claim to know what’s going to work for everyone, until the next thing comes along.

Posted by patric627 | Report as abusive
 

Couldn’t agree with you any more. Simplicity is just good.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive
 

cool story bro.

Posted by georgekush18 | Report as abusive
 

This is interesting where you make the point :-

“Disruption theory has taught us that the greatest danger facing a company is making a product better than it needs to be. There are numerous incentives for making products better but few incentives to re-directing improvements away from the prevailing basis of competition.”

Back in the 80′s the Marshall Amplification company (Marshall Guitar Amp’s) faced a very unusual but threatening problem. Their biggest competition had become their own second hand equipment. The punters didn’t like some of the newer MOSFET technology that the company decided to adopt and everyone who was anyone with a guitar went chasing their old Valve Amps because they were just better or “Fit for Purpose”. To this day Marshall still make Valve Amps and their MOSFET stuff is only used b band seeking a more industrial or modern sound. The difference is chalk an cheese I can tell, having owned both, the MOSFET stuff requires a lot ,more power to drive them and they still can’t reproduce the sound of an overdriven Valve Amp.

Posted by Neilo | Report as abusive
 

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