Is the iPhone 5 Worth the Upgrade?

The iPhone 5 is here. So whatcha gonna do about it?

Matt Branhamby Matt Branham

Apple has once again given us a reason to take out another mortgage and talk our children into going to community college with its unveiling of the long-awaited iPhone 5. After having a moment to absorb the news, the one burning question that remains is whether or not it’s worth the upgrade.

With each great stride Apple makes, the company is slowly forcing customers toward upgrades, unless they’re at peace with having mentally challenged telephones. Take a gander at the newest changes in the iPhone world and see if you can live without Apple’s latest device, or if you prefer to continue suckling at the tech teat once again.

Fit Body

Just like a night at the Oscars where people seem more interested in what everyone is wearing instead of what they’ve accomplished, so is the chatter of what the new iPhone 5 would look like. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a huge overhaul, only more stretching and squeezing like a nice pair of Spanx.

There’s no denying that it’s a beautiful piece of art, updated with a 4″ screen (from 3.5″) to support a crisp 16:9 video ratio and standing slightly taller than its sibling iPhones with an extra row of icons. The body, 18% thinner and 20% lighter, is built to fit better and more comfortably to your hand, a concern that was never really addressed in the past.

The Downside: Other models will be affected now that apps will be formatted to fit the larger screen, adding more black space on the screens of older models.

4G LTE Capable

Running through the list of specs, the iPhone 5’s most noteworthy feature is its first appearance as a 4G LTE-compatible phone. The previous two models (iPhone 4 and 4S) have declined to saddle up with the other carriers and join the 4G networks in the past. This will prove truly effective for the iPhone’s ability to download and use data the most efficient way possible. The trouble for people upgrading is that the 4G LTE network only has solid coverage for Verizon, whereas Sprint and AT&T lack greatly in the western part of the U.S. outside of major cities.

The Downside: The upgrade to 4G could mean a reduction in performance for the 3G users, and with 3G slowly being fazed out, it’s only a matter of time before people are forced into upgrading. Then, we can look forward to 5G. So much for the simple life.

Speedy Chip

To add to the speed of 4G capabilities, the iPhone 5 is sporting a newly designed A6 chip, which performs at more than twice the speed (in graphics and basic functionality) as the A5 chip found in the iPhone 4. If this iPhone were competing in a marathon, it would be one of the Kenyan runners that always finishes way ahead of the rest of the pack (like any Android device).

The Downside: A faster Android will soon be created, followed by a faster iPhone, and the mad cycle will continue because this is an important competition in the world.

Camera Missed Opportunity

Considering the camera is likely the most used feature on the phone outside of the lines of communication, it’s surprising that Apple had little to say about the camera features. The camera did not improve from 8 megapixels on the iPhone 4S, perhaps due to the reduced size of the phone overall.

The image sensor is slightly improved, and the lens on the iPhone 5 is up to 4.3 mm from 4.1 mm, along with a larger ISO range, reaching to an ISO 50. More color saturation will be added to photos by default as they’re taken, but that may reduce the actual detail of its photos. Tiny improvements are here, but why waste the opportunity to take things up a notch?

The Downside: Everybody in the world will have to continue to be an amateur photographer for at least another whole year.

New “Lightning” Charger

Apple announced that the new iPhone will come equipped with a smaller, more convenient, reversible charger called the “Lightning” connector. Apple may have to check its definition of the word “convenient” as this seems to be a moneymaking ploy. Although the charger is quick and easy to use, it will not be universal to other Apple devices like iPads and iPods. It’s like getting a free sandwich as long as you buy the sandwich shop.

The Downside: Get ready to toss out your old chargers, especially you, businesses who have invested thousands into making charging convenient for your customers.

Stronger Speakers

Not much was said about the new speakers, except that they’d be more powerful, which is great if you’re that guy who blares music from his phone in public instead of using headphones like the rest of society.

The Downside: That guy just got a little louder.

Longer Lasting Battery

It’s always nice to end on a high note. This one speaks for itself, as Apple always makes a point to say their new models will have stronger battery life. It’s usually not until the phone is released that people have their opinions on the battery, so stay tuned.

The new model’s thinner body, due to a new technology called in-cell touch, will allow for a larger, stronger battery. It’s safe to say that this time, they meant it when they said it. Expect more battery life.

The Downside: If you’re rocking a 4G phone in a place with little 4G networks, your battery will probably go more quickly than you’d prefer.

An important note to keep in mind, the free iOS 6 software upgrade, which could be downloaded on Sept. 19, has more new features than the iPhone 5 has over its previous models. Users with an iPhone 4S have little reason to upgrade, and iPhone 4 users aren’t missing much either. If you’re a dinosaur with the 3S model or use iPhones heavily in business, it may behoove you to be one of the millions who will upgrade, but the iOS 6 update will have plenty of cool, free changes that don’t require you to jump on any bandwagons.

Despite record-breaking pre-orders for the new model, this heavily anticipated iPhone is delivering small improvements across already existing features found in previous models. Since people expected the iPhone 5 last year but only received a know-it-all woman’s voice (Siri) talking back at them, we expected something a little more in terms of new features. The iPhone 4 is free, and the 4S model is now $99. If you need an upgrade so badly, why not give those a try?