October 1, 2012 / by matt
With the introduction of the iPhone 5, the tech world has been abuzz with talk about the new features, the new hardware and the pitfalls of iOS. As a tech junkie, I try to follow as much of the tech news as possible, however in practice I have planted myself firmly in the land of Android Fandom. My first smart phone was a Samsung Intercept, which after using it was quickly returned for an HTC Evo 4g. I have stayed with Sprint (for better or worse) and have primarily enjoyed their service. We were among the first to get “4g” connectivity, however that point of pride has transformed into a point of embarrassment following the introduction of 4g LTE. Sprint’s rollout of LTE has been dismal, even in larger markets like St. Louis.
I must admit that I’ve often behaved as an Android Fanboy, bashing Apple and the iPhone without actually having used it. With the introduction of the iPhone 5, I decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to subject myself to the Cult of Mac and see what all the fuss is about. I have owned Apple products in the past (several iPods and a G4 iBook, remember those?), but have never owned anything running iOS.
So without further ado, here we go.
After deciding to make the plunge, the first of many decisions presented itself. How much storage did I want? This has never been an option for me before. I have a little of 20GB of music and several hundred gigabytes of movie files. I know that no phone currently in existence has enough storage for ALL my media, so I decide to go the cheap route and purchase the 16GB version…in black. I figure that more and more of my media consumption has gone the streaming route, a la Spotify, Netflix and the amazing add-on app Plex, so 16GB might do.
I heard through the grapevine that the best chance for me to get an iPhone would be to get to an Apple Store as soon as they opened. So that’s what I did. Located in the nearby West County Mall, I got to the Apple Store at about 10:02 AM. I was greeted by about 30 other customers, who all presumably got there in the previous 2 minutes. I wiggled my way to the front of the store and asked a Sales Representative if they had any Sprint iPhone 5’s in stock. He checked and told me that they had one 64GB model left. I had a big decision to make. Was my little experiment potentially worth $400? About .5 seconds later I decided that it was. I told the man I wanted the phone and he instructed me to go back to the entrance of the store to speak to a different Sales Rep about purchasing the phone. So I did, but I was informed that I could not purchase the phone because the Sprint account is in my wife’s name and I am not an “authorized user”. The man informed me that my wife would need to contact Sprint and have me added as an authorized user. (He also added that I would have more luck getting the 16GB model if I purchased the phone through the Apple.com website at exactly 10pm.)
So my gracious wife agreed to contact Sprint and jump through these mandatory hoops. Two hours later of non-stop talking my wife had successfully managed to speak to about 4 different Sprint representatives, update our information, passcodes and PIN’s about 8 different times and add her husband as an authorized user. This was probably the single worst instance of Customer “Service” that I have ever witnessed.
After that debacle I waited until 10pm and reserved the 16GB iPhone online. I picked it up the next day and began using it.
This phone is extraordinarily light. And thin. I picked it up and briefly thought that it was a prop. There couldn’t actually be the innards of a fully functional computer inside this thing. But there were.
All the buttons on the phone were almost identical to my Evo. There’s the headphone jack, a sleep/wake button, two volume buttons and a feature that my Evo didn’t have, a switch for silent mode. Very handy. The Lightning connector is a breeze due to its reversible design and I like that speaker is on the bottom, so that it’s never muffled when the phone is lying down.
Set-up was done in-store. The Apple guy was nice enough to inform me that my Gmail contacts would only be imported if I used the stock “Mail” application instead of the Google Gmail application. This worked. My Facebook contacts were successfully imported as well and I was off to the races.
I played around with some of the Apps, realizing that they were all very similar to what I was used to on Android. There was a clock app, a weather app, a photo app…nothing exciting. So I decide to check out the App Store. I figure I gotta get the necessities, Spotify, Pandora, Netflix and the like, so I start downloading. This is where I find my first complaint. I’m always having to enter my password to download an app. This likely wouldn’t be so much of an issue once I’ve had the phone for a while, but in my initial app-getting frenzy, this is a pain in the ass.
However, once downloaded the apps work great. I like the ease of which I can create folders on the home screen and I like how the home screen creates new pages as I download more apps. (No more App Tray for you Android folks.)
Basic Features (Phone, Messaging, Email, Connectivity)
The basic features of a smart phone are pretty consistent across platforms. There obviously aren’t going to be any differences in how a dial pad works or how text messages work, but I do find the textual keyboard on the iPhone to be somewhat limiting. There are only two versions of the keyboard available to users. One is the actual QWERTY text based keys and the other is everything else. Android users will be sad to learn that number keys and punctuation are located on the alternate keyboard and that there are no arrow keys whatsoever. This makes correcting mistakes especially frustrating when the user has to rely on tapping to select the exact spot they want to correct.
The stock email client seems to be fully functional. It has access to all folders in my Gmail, the ability to send to contacts, CC/BCC support, etc.
As for connectivity, I knew going into this experiment that I would lose 4g service. That may have been my biggest mistake. As I stated before, I do a lot of streaming and most of it was over 4g. While the typical 10+ Mbps speed of Sprint’s 4g was nice, it wasn’t dramatically different than the 3-4Mbps speeds I was getting on 3g. I would kill for my old 3g speeds on this iPhone. I have run SpeedTest a few times over 3g and have gotten results between 0.2-0.3 Mbps down. Unacceptable. If it weren’t for the automatic switching between cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity, this phone would have gone back to the Apple store on the first day. This essentially takes mobile streaming out of the equation. Spotify continually buffers and Netflix is worthless over cellular.
While I haven’t been able to test everything on the first day, I have begun to see the slight differences between Android and iOS. The experience is generally smoother and simpler on the iPhone but often at the expense of customization.
The connectivity issues are more of Sprint’s problem than Apple’s, however the 3g antenna in Sprint’s iPhone seems to compound the problem.
Tomorrow we’ll take a deeper look at some apps in particular, as well as some of the iPhone’s more secondary functions, such as being one’s personal media player and navigation services.