Welcome New iPhone 5 (and other assorted items)

Yes, months of waiting are over. Yes, it’s called the iPhone 5. Like its predecessor, it’s all glass and aluminum, but only 7.6 mm thick, 18% thinner and 20% lighter than the 4S.  Same retina display density as the 4s, but a bigger, 4″ screen, which bumps it up to 1136 x 640 res and 44% more color saturation. That means an additional row of icons per page. Apple has updated all of the Apple apps to accomodate the new phone. Bigger screen means more data on each screen. And it promises to be fast. HSPA+ and DC-HSPDA and  LTE – fast. The antennas will switch seamlessly and you should be able to secure 4G speed wherever available worldwide.

Wireless is improved as well – the 5 will support 802.11 a/b/g/n at up to 150Mbps. New processor too – the A6 is 2x faster on processing and graphics, and smaller than its predecessor. Hopefully for a bigger battery. But all things considered, the numbers aren’t bad for all this new, faster, shinier hardware: Apple is indicating 8 hours of 3G talk, 225 hour of standby, 40 hours of music, 10 hours of wi-fi browsing, and 8 hours of LTE  browsing. The camera appears to be pretty much the same as 4S, with 8MP, faster capture and a smart filter for better color matching. Oh, and Panorama mode!  iOS6, which will come on this phone, includes a new Shared Photo Streams feature which allows you to share photos with friends, who can then comment on them or like them.

Video is updating too – it will still be 1080p but will have better stabilization and facial recognition features. The front camera is getting bumped to  720p.  You will be able to take pictures while recording video. Three mics on the device to improve audio capture.

Now, about that connector. The new one is called Lightning. Lightning is an all digital design, with 8 pins instead of 30. Needless to say, much smaller and incompatible without an adaptor with any of your existing iPhone peripherals. Of course, Apple is making the adaptor. Oh well. Wonder what that will run cost-wise?

iOS6 had its debut back in June, but the finer details as applied to the iPhone 5 are now cast. New Maps, with 100 million! points of interest and related info including Yelp reviews and photos and turn by turn directions. Not quite up to Google standards without walking and public transportation directions, but slick nonetheless. Access 3D satellite imagery by pressing the bottom corner of the screen.

Improvements to Notifications – access and update your applications, like Twitter, right from Notifications. Full screen mode in Safari. iCloud tabs to keep track of your browser sessions across devices. Mail has VIP filtering which allows you to set priorities for certain email senders. Passport which keeps important data close and integrates with your lock screen so you can flash your digital boarding pass at the airport.  Siri knows more about things like sports and movies,  can launch apps or post to Facebook for you if you ask her and even make a reservation for you through Open Table. Definitely getting more like Alfred here.

Same color scheme too – black or white. There is no room for grey area with this one.

All in all, improvements but no innovations. Positives but no “OMG!” But, the price remains the same – $199, $299 and $399 for 16G, 32G and 64G models, respectively. Gotta give Apple some credit for that. And the 4S and 4 get big price drops. I am using a 4 now and scoring a 4 for free on contract is pretty amazing – it is still a great phone.

You can preorder on September 14 and it will ship on September 21 – the day after my birthday (how appropriate).  For those not upgrading, phones from the 3GS forward will get iOS 6.

There were a few other announcements during the press conference as well – new iTunes and new iPods, the latter being far overdue for an overhaul. New iTunes incorporates more social features and integration with Twitter and Facebook, so might as well kiss Ping goodbye. New look too. More visually appealing with thumbnails of album covers instead of a text list. Access more functions in iTunes from a single screen, which is also a welcome change. Another cool add is a mini player that looks like a little bar and will allow you to play, pause, skip, and adjust volume. Very nice if you don’t want the whole of iTunes taking up your real estate. New iTunes in late October. Some updates to the iPods, but nothing earth shattering. Oh, and new earbuds, er EarPods. Like iPods, but for your ears.

Gotta love a company that closes its product launch with the Foo Fighters.  Didn’t even know they played “private” parties.

Oh, and yes, I will be getting one. In White.

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"But Everyone's Doing it" – Smartphone Etiquette

No one loves their smartphone more than I do. I mean, I review mobile apps, for Pete’s sake. I love pretty much everything about the little devices that pack so much into such a portable form.

And yes, I do bring my smartphone with me almost everywhere. But I have to get on my soap box here, for a moment. My target is not really the smartphones, per se, but the users who have bonded so firmly with their devices that it might take a crowbar to dislodge them from their death grip.

It is a topic I have been thinking about for some time now. To sum it up: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  When I am engaging with friends, or when I am at dinner with companions, I pocket my phone and that is where it stays, until I am alone. There are people within my social group who find it perfectly o.k. to turn to the phone during a conversation, rather than the other human companions in the group. I have a problem with that.

Go ahead. Call me old fashioned. I recall reading a post several months back by one of those people, you know, the ones who find it perfectly acceptable to choose the virtual world over the very real social situation at hand. This person (I so wish I could find that article) actually made the argument that the prolific use of smartphones during social gatherings actually improved his social experience, enhanced his connections with other people rather than diminished them, by making the event more exciting. If I recall correctly, the examples proffered by the author included the ability to look up data to settle an argument. Well, now, where is the fun in that? There goes the entire sport of social argument in one fell Google-an or Wikipedian swoop. Exciting, my foot. More like a buzz kill.

But seriously, much of what is going on during these flights from reality are forays into the virtual social world. Perusing Facebook while sitting at a table with real friends. Checking messages sent by others while real people next to you wait for you to finish. Attending to questionably pressing work during those rare off hours spent in the company of your real family. This exercise is simply missing the entire point.

Social networking via the Web is indeed a marvelous trick. Our ability to connect and share has increased exponentially with the advent and acceptance of tools like Facebook and Twitter. But these tools were built on the presumption that we are social animals, interested in making connections and sharing experiences. Experiences. Not virtual status updates or digital media. If given the opportunity to experience a real world connection, does it make any sense to eschew that opportunity for a chance to play the next round of Words with Friends? Not in my book. My take on our brave new world may seem quaint, but to me social networking is meant to enhance and not usurp the real world experience with friends, family, colleagues and potential clients.

David Carr has a great semi-tongue in cheek list of etiquette rules for smartphone use over at the NYT, and I have to say I agree with most, if not all, of them. Maybe he is old-fashioned too. But maybe David and I will have our heads up when something exciting happens in our real world environment. I doubt either one of us will say “Damn! That siting of President Obama made me lose my chance to tend my Farmville garden!” 

As Aesop once wisely said “Beware that you do not lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.”