Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My Take on the iPhone 5

Fundamentally there are only 5 things that you can do with information (process, transmit, store, sense, display). As an information device, here is a quick run-down on the changes embodied in the iPhone 5.

Process: The new iPhone as a 2X faster processor.

Transmit: LTE capability was added, but no Near Field Communications (NFC) as was rumored.

Store: The camera is faster which may be improved flash memory or an improved imager. In any case it is still built in memory only with that built in memory mark up.

Sense: The iPhone has better camera (in addition to being faster, more spatial resolution and better image stabilization).

Display: The speakers (a form of display) have been improved and noise cancelling added to the earpiece. The display itself has been improved in numerous ways some of which may or may not be apparent to the consumer. The display is bigger has 326 dpi spatial resolution, reported “better color fidelity” which I assume means higher chromatic resolution. Not mentioned in today’s reports but reported earlier, the screen should have better motion response as well.

Packaging: Beyond its information handling capability, the new iPhone has better packaging. The screen now comes in a 16:9 format, a wider aspect ratio than the previous iPhone. It seems that the designers wanted a bigger screen but the phone still had to fit well in the hand, so the screen was narrowed at the same time it was made bigger. Traditionally, Apple has preferred 16:10 for its computing devices being able to show a 16:9 image with a control bar at the bottom. The control bar is probably unnecessary for a phone. The screen is thinner, contributing to a thinner overall device. The camera also has a sapphire lens, probably more for improved scratch resistance than optics.
Content: A new iOS is coming and some changes to iTunes.

From a display perspective, as I have noted in other articles, it really takes 2 dimensions to describe a screen size, either an aspect ratio and diagonal, or height and width. Vizio ran into some criticism for its Cinema-wide sets for giving the identical information, screen diagonal and aspect ratio. In considering the palm size, Apple has decided that screen width is relevant to the consumer but continues in the traditional pattern of reporting a diagonal. It wouldn’t be a bad thing if the industry just started describing screen size with height and width. As to the other aspects of the screen, there are numerous improvements but probably with diminishing returns for the consumer in terms of visual quality. Packing in more pixels to the display diminishes battery life and if the display is already at the resolution limit of the viewer, there is not much to be gained but bragging rights. At some point, to show more visually complex content, a bigger display is needed, but the phone still must remain a hand held device. As a branding focus, the emphasis is shifting away from the display until some other aspect of the display becomes a marketing focus, a common event in the TV world where one season it is brightness, the next contrast, and so on.

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