Three quick hits, misses for the iPhone 5

Here are three factors pushing the iPhone 5 forward - and three more holding it back

It should surprise exactly no one to learn that the iPhone 5 has been widely proclaimed to be the best smartphone in the world, and that it sold a mind-boggling 5 million units within days of hitting the market.

MORE IPHONE 5: iPhone 5 sales top 5 million units in first 3 days of sale

However, the critical reaction has been uncharacteristically mixed for the latest version of Apple's ubiquitous smartphone, and even that ridiculous sales number is below what had been expected. Here are three factors pushing the iPhone 5 forward - and three more holding it back.

Hit 1: 4G/LTE

Given the increasing commonality of 4G/LTE connectivity among the iPhone's Android-based rivals, this was a gap that Apple needed to close, and it did so. Competing on relatively equal features allows the iPhone 5's meticulous engineering and high degree of polish to shine through.

Hit 2: The screen

There's no way around it - this is a beautiful screen. Apple's much-ballyhooed "Retina" technology let the company keep the high pixel density it had on the smaller iPhone 4 and 4S models. At 1136x640, the resolution is high enough to show off games and videos in impressive style.

Hit 3: Speed

The iPhone 5's new A6 processor may have gotten a little of its thunder stolen by Intel's noisy entry into the smartphone market, but that shouldn't distract people from the fact that it's a beast of a chip. The processor core is a custom design from Apple's own engineers.

Miss 1: Maps

You've probably heard about this by now, but it bears repeating - by ditching Google Maps and going with its own mapping software, Apple has shot itself in the foot. Mapping is a tricky business, and by all accounts, Apple's effort doesn't seem quite ready for prime-time. Users can take heart that Google is apparently going to port Google Maps over to iOS 6, but that doesn't wipe the egg off Apple's face.

Miss 2: Wi-Fi

The slow demise of unlimited data plans has made Wi-Fi a more important feature than ever - so it's bad news for Apple that some units apparently have trouble connecting to Wi-Fi hotspots. A massive threadnaught on the Apple support forums illustrates the number of users affected by the problem.

Miss 3: The competition

Perhaps most troubling for Apple, however, is the growing strength of the competition - Android as an ecosystem outsells the iPhone by a considerable margin, and the gulf in build quality, functionality and polish has narrowed considerably.

Where previous iPhone releases set new standards for smartphones, the iPhone 5 merely pulls Apple into parity with competing devices - that's an unwelcome change for the Cupertino company.

Still, they don't look too worried, do they?

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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Jon Gold

Network World
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