iPhone 5 - how exciting is that?

Picture of iPhone 5Apple has released the iPhone 5, and a week from now many Apple enthusiasts will be clutching their very own brand new superphone. So, look, why did Apple's share price stay static rather than leap on the announcement - and what, if anything, was missing?

The first thing to say about the new model is that it's slimmer, lighter and slightly taller than the older models. The graphics will be better which is great for gamers and processing just about everything will be faster. So why was Wall Street so, well, underwhelmed?

Apple fans

My guess is that there are a few reasons. First, the market is maturing. Although there exists a handful of people who will indeed just go and buy anything new because it has the word "Apple" inscribed upon it, these aren't the mass buyers. Increasingly the market is looking at what a new phone might have to offer.

And in this instance it looks a lot like a few tweaks. These are good tweaks which are worth having. Better performance, larger screen area, it's all good stuff - but is it worth hundreds and committing to a new phone contract? My guess is that for many people it isn't. I have an iPhone 4. I'm entitled to an upgrade if I wish and I honestly don't feel inclined to rush at it.

This is to say nothing of the another factor: the competition has caught up quite dramatically. It is no criticism of Apple - quite the reverse - that other phones now look as good as iPhones. In some countries Samsung has been found guilty of copying the technology, although not in all; what's certain is that Apple set the bar high for looks and function with the original iPhone and others are now reaching a similar standard.


Critics argue that the big gap in the new model is the absence of NFC - that's Near Field Communication, a technology that allows payments and other transactions to happen without (for example) getting a card out of your bag or wallet. This was predicted quite widely; the only thing is, very few retailers are accepting NFC payments yet. Should Apple have jumped the gun and issued a 'wow' technology that nobody's actually using and which could end up as the Betamax of payment technology? There's a good argument that says "no thanks".

For me, the disappointment is the absence of a physical zoom on the camera. If it's going to substitute for a pocket camera proper then it needs to start acting like one - and that doesn't mean losing resolution immediately once you start zooming. The lack of this isn't a surprise, though, from a company that delights in its clean lines. Having an ungainly zoom built in would detract from these and add to the weight.

There's a very real question to ask about whether we're running out of useful things to add to phones - or indeed whether the app markets already allow us to make a phone work differently every week if we wish. Granted it was the Victorians who first said that everything that could be invented had been invented, but in terms of what you can cram into a relatively small phone, we must be reaching saturation point.

My guess is that phone announcements are going to become less and less full of razmatazz as they go. Earlier this year Panasonic released new TVs, no doubt LG released new white goods, and nobody kicked up a fuss because that's just what they do. Now Apple, a phone manufacturer, has released a new phone. The remarkable thing isn't that the share price didn't move, or that people didn't think it would revolutionise their lives; the odd thing is that some people expected it to have those effects.

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