With typical fanfare Apple have gone and released the latest iPhone. As with their traditional cadence, this is the first truly "new" model released in two years, after the internal refresh and tweak of the 4S. The question is, how will it fare in the ongoing technical, consumer-perception and increasingly, legal battle between Apple and the top-tier Android products? One answer is that it will impress a lot more than just Apple loyalists, but will the iPhone 5 retake and hold the 'high ground' for Apple?
There's certainly a lot to be pleased about in the latest industrial design from Cupertino; not least that it will debut here in the first wave of releases (September 21st) and due to the famed Australian 'aheadness' (in time zones at least) those queuing outside Apple stores at midnight will be the first consumers in the world to receive an iPhone 5. Kiwis will line up only a week later. The only negative with the release is Apple vying for the 'meaningless gibberish we write on adverts' award with Samsung, and surprisingly winning.
The newest iPhone holds few surprises on the outside, inspite of a host of updates. As Atomic suggested was likely back in July, it sports a much evolved 4" 16:9 aspect ratio, 1136 x 640 screen and a significantly improved upon (but still 8 Megapixel) camera. Physically we see a 20% thinner body, 20% lower weight and a taller body - as well as a new (albeit still USB 2.0) dock connector. We'll be playing with the phone itself shortly but so far the lighter, thinner body with its brushed aluminium back and antennae bands at the top and bottom has been praised endlessly as adding up to an impressive phone in terms of build quality.
The surprises start properly on the inside. Apple have been fairly tight-lipped about the 'system on a chip' processor in the phone (called simply the A6), however all indications from previous testing of the iPad 2,4 and latest Apple TV suggest it's 32nm Samsung sourced silicon. Surprisingly it very much appears are that we are looking at a dual-core processor rather than the quads popular in current top shelf Android phones. Where surprise just becomes shock is in just what each core is comprised of; rather than using the ubiquitous ARM Cortex A9 that powers pretty much every Apple, Android and Windows phone, Apple has debuted the out-of-order superscalar (i.e. much faster) ARM Cortex A15. This appears to have paired with the immensely powerful PowerVR SGX543MP graphics chip - as found on the Playstation Vita and latest iPad and 1GB of RAM. This combination is the iPhone's greatest draw card - don't believe the naysayers - this is an immensely powerful and groundbreaking phone and it shows in user testing.
Backing this up is an evolved operating system - iOS 6 will also be launching shortly for the iPhone 4 and 4S). Drawing many elements from Android the operating system upgrades the Apple music player, interweb browser and phone applications. As expected we also see LTE (essentially 4G) for those countries that have supporting networks.
But if you're asking, no, it's not enough. Apple will not regain the high ground from Android this time. The new iPhone is impressive, much more impressive than many commentators have realised but, with the caveat that Atomic's review is still inbound, it does not regain the high ground for Apple. For this generation at least the best Android phones will have similar capabilities and equal consumer cache. Apple's best, as good as it is, seems only to level the playing field this time.