iPhone 5 succeeds in cherry-picking the best Android features

Sep 12, 2012

Apple knows its iPhone gets customers excited. The debut of the iPhone 5 brought very few surprises in terms of features, but Apple rolled out yet another fairly stunning device. Not only does it bring a number of big updates to the Apple line, but it continues to keep Apple ahead of devices sporting Google’s […]

Apple knows its iPhone gets customers excited.

The debut of the iPhone 5 brought very few surprises in terms of features, but Apple rolled out yet another fairly stunning device. Not only does it bring a number of big updates to the Apple line, but it continues to keep Apple ahead of devices sporting Google’s Android operating system. Imitation sometimes is the sincerest form of flattery, and Apple is co-opting Android’s best and most-used features.

Recently, Samsung started running commercials for its Galaxy S-III phone focusing on photo sharing. Samsung’s new tech lets customers share their photos with all their friends instantly. The idea is that everyone can see the images on their own devices, rather than photos being stranded in a single place and requiring a second service (like email or Facebook) to spread them around. The iPhone 5 can do that too now.

Apple’s new Photo Stream feature works in the same way, allowing users to create mini-social networks centered around sharing their images. It was a feature cool enough for Samsung to make commercials about it, but the Android device manufacturer couldn’t stay ahead for long.

Better directions

The iPhone 5 does the same thing with its new Maps app in iOS 6. Apple’s directions-dealing GPS app has been more or less inferior to what was available on Android devices for quite a while now, with the latter offering turn-by-turn directions and giving those directions with audio cues. Not even Siri on the iPhone 4S could do that. While users could buy third-party apps for iOS to get the same affect, they usually cost something. It was another area in which Android had something different, and better, than what Apple was offering.

Until now. The new Maps app takes the edge off Android’s directions offerings. It doesn’t seem like much until you consider how often the Maps app gets used by a typical smartphone owner. If they’re anything like me – and I suspect they are – Maps will get used about as much as any other app on the device. It’s invaluable, and Apple has arguably leveled the playing field with Android in what had been a Google-dominated feature.

Then there are other features. Apple is on the 4G LTE train with its latest two phones, which was an area where Android excelled. And Apple upped the size of its screen to 4 inches this go around, another area where Android devices have differentiated themselves. It might not be as big as other smartphones – there are devices out there going with a 4.5-inch display – but Apple is adapting to the HD video and aspect ratio while maintaining its own favored form.

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A content-creating powerhouse

Apple didn’t overtly mention the iPhone 5’s abilities to help its users make things, but it’s undeniable that the new features in the device will be just as good for content creation as they are for content consumption. A number of new and amped-up features are going to make the iPhone 5 a great device just to have in your pocket on a typical day, or even with which to do real creative and artistic projects.

The iPhone 5’s new camera continues to make the device a powerful way for users to capture the world around them. Plenty of people no longer own stand-alone cameras, but use their phones for that purpose. While most smartphones are perfectly acceptable for taking shots of your friends at parties or the beach, professionals have demonstrated that these devices are capable of taking powerful, professional-quality images as well. Apple is continuing to step up its devices’ abilities in those departments with the 3264-by-2448 resolution and improved low-light performance.

During its iPhone 5 presentation, Apple mentioned  it added two new microphones to the handset for shooting video and for features like FaceTime. At first, this just sounds like a way of making interpersonal communication work a little better, but it’s not hard to see past FaceTime to where those two new microphones will be invaluable. Video bloggers and citizen journalists posting or capturing critical moments at protests like Arab Spring and Occupy movements will find the new microphones to be invaluable. They also works for creative projects like making movies and videos, which some people have done entirely on their iOS devices. To boot, several bands have shot their music videos entirely on iPhones already.

Throw in the capabilities of Apple’s internal A6 chip and the faster wireless and Wi-Fi connection speeds the device will offer, and it seems like while watching videos and talking to people will be nice, making things with your device will be a lot more fun.

Still the king of gaming

If there’s a single realm in which Apple remains the leader of the industry, it’s in mobile gaming. The sheer volume of great, exclusive mobile titles, coupled with the player base available to developers, allows it to keep ahead of the rest of the mobile world.

And as we saw during the iPhone 5 announcement, the A6 chip inside the iPhone 5 is going to allow developers and Apple to continue to nip at the heels of the traditional gaming market with some great-looking, impressive mobile titles, such as Real Racing 3, which was demonstrated on stage. There is no denying that iPad and iPhone gaming was already getting more and more impressive, with features like AirPlay and titles such as Infinity Blade II and Horn that are just gorgeous on Apple’s devices. Apple is doing well to keep pace with the top graphical capabilities of Android devices, and it’s doing it with more exciting games.

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These games will play faster with Apple’s new tech for cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity. The iPhone 5 is designed to make connections as fast as possible on the best networks available, and 4G LTE already makes for some super-fast gaming. The point is, it’s only getting better, and more competitive. Apple’s devices have already established themselves as big contenders in the video game handheld market, and it really seems as though it might not be long before they’re vying for a place against consoles like Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3.

Maybe not the most innovative, but impressive

The iPhone 5 might not be the greatest smartphone on the market when taken against the technical capabilities of all the devices available on Android. Its screen could be bigger and Apple was late getting into 4G LTE technology. Many of the new features Apple is touting are old features for Android users. All of this has been true before and remains true with the new phone.

But Apple’s devices are more than the sum of their parts, and it’s the bigger picture that makes the iPhone 5 so impressive. A new camera, new photo-sharing capabilities, new Facebook integration – all these things are cool on their own. But it’s the ways that they all interact that will make the device worthy of your attention (and paycheck). What’s cool about the iPhone 5 is that it’s not dependent on one big feature, like Siri, but on a hundred little ones that are going to work together to make the device do lots of cool things.

It’s all those little things that will make the iPhone 5 a device people want to own, even if there are Android devices that are technically “better.” Apple continues to find ways of making new and old features work better for consumers.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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