Tall, dark, and very handsome, the new iPhone 5 is more of an evolution than a revolution, whatever Apple's marketing says. The device lines up with almost all the leaked information that has been circulating around the rumor blogs and there weren't really any "wow" moments. Apple bills this as "The biggest thing to happen to iPhone since iPhone," but unless they're just making wordplay on the larger screen, not many people agree with them. The universal response has been to rush out and buy it, as with all new Apple devices, but with less of the fervor we've seen in previous releases.
So, the question at the end of the day boils down to "is it worth it?" Thinner, lighter, better battery life... these are all things we have come to expect, but they don't tip the scales of decision when you have a perfectly good iPhone 4S in your pocket. I would argue that the iPhone 5 is absolutely worth the money (assuming you have carrier-subsidized upgrade pricing), and for a few reasons that Apple didn't push home the way I would have liked. They focused on the screen, which, sure, is nicer and bigger and more color-saturated, but ultimately is just a feature spec they had to introduce in order to match their competitors. I see the biggest change as more internal, and it's the LTE chip that now powers the device's network connection.
This isn't just faster, this is radically faster. When the iPhone evolved from EDGE to 3G, it made a huge difference in everyone's experience of the device, from surfing the web to how apps performed and the kinds of data we could consume.
Now, of course, all this is dependent on support from the cell network carriers, but AT&T and Verizon have both been making considerable investments in their 4G LTE networks over the last few years. We'll just have to see once the market is saturated with iPhone 5 handsets how they can carry the load.
Apple also gave us an update on iOS 6, its forthcoming update to their mobile operating system, and it will bring a lot of nice tweaks and improvements. We've already taken a look at some of the security implications of the forthcoming iO6 release, but for now, really all there is to say about it is that it's nicer and, like the phone's hardware, represents a step forward rather than a leap.
All in all, updating to iOS 6 is a no-brainer, and while the iPhone 5 upgrade may not seem that exciting, as long as you live in an area with great 4G coverage, you're going to notice a vast improvement in the hardware performance as well. Apple's customers are increasingly harsh critics after the streak of industry-changing products they've introduced in the last decade, but the company is still producing excellent products that are well worth the investment and are forward-thinking. I'll certainly be buying the new iPhone, and can't wait to test it out in the wild.
Apple's event also gave us some new iPods and an updated version of iTunes, though nothing of great significance was announced. Those product lines continue to evolve and improve, but there's very little that can be done to revolutionize them in the near future beyond the foundation that has been laid by the iPod Touch. As Apple noted in their keynote event, the iPod Touch is not just the world's most popular music player, it's the world's most popular mobile gaming platform, and that says a lot as Nintendo and Microsoft gear up for new console releases next year. Apple is still dominant and looks to maintain their position, so we can't wait to see them assault the home entertainment market full-on next year.
I have a feeling Apple will be holding another press conference soon. They've got more tricks up their sleeve before 2012 is over, I guarantee.