Yes, yes. By now, we’re all plenty versed on the headline features that Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) is packing into the iPhone 5, such as its 4G LTE data speeds, and its taller four-inch Retina display. Forget those -- what about the features that didn’t make the cut? And perhaps, more importantly, why not? Does it need them?
1. Enormous screen
For the first time in the iPhone’s history, Apple increased the screen from a 3.5-inch display to a four-inch one. It did this by changing the aspect ratio and keeping the same width, while making the screen taller. Meanwhile, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android rivals seem content to continue pushing the screen size spec as far as possible, well into "phablet" territory.
Is-it-a-phone-or-is-it-a-tablet devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and its monstrous 5.5-inch display really beg the question: How big is too big? Even Samsung’s flagship Android-powered Galaxy S III, which is seeing strong sales, has a 4.8-inch display. Here’s a comparison that I put together earlier this week of flagship devices.
|Apple iPhone 5
|Samsung Galaxy S III
|HTC One X
|Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) Lumia 920
|Motorola Droid RAZR HD
|LG Optimus G
Sources: Apple, Samsung, HTC, Nokia, Motorola, LG.
Actually, there’s really not much reason to speculate why Apple went conservatively here compared to its Android rivals. It tells us directly on its website, as if it’s pre-emptively answering the question and noting why its approach is better:
Anyone can make a larger smartphone display. But if you go large for large’s sake, you end up with a phone that feels oversize, awkward, and hard to use. iPhone 5 features a 4-inch display designed the right way: it’s bigger, but it’s the same width as iPhone 4S. So everything you’ve always done with one hand — typing on the keyboard, for instance — you can still do with one hand.
This choice really comes down to one-handed operation, which is a key consideration for a smartphone -- or any mobile device, for that matter. Such large screen sizes simply aren’t as easy to use.
2. Near-field communications
Many had wondered if Apple would, at long last, decide to include near-field communications, or NFC, into the iPhone 5, especially considering Android’s aggressive implementation of the technology in Google Wallet. Apple’s Passbook app is a clear step towards wallet functionality, and NFC seemed to fit, or so the reasoning went. Some leaked images heading into the announcement even showed what appeared to be a chip from NXP Semiconductor (Nasdaq: NXPI ) , but that speculation didn’t hold much steam.
During The Motley Fool’s iPhone 5 Live Chat covering the announcement, it seemed that a lot of investors were anxious to know if NFC was included or not. I warned that NXP would not be a winner, because there really isn’t a very compelling reason for Apple to include it, while there are many obstacles.
In an interview with All Things D following the event, marketing chief Phil Schiller summed it up:
It’s not clear that NFC is the solution to any current problem. Passbook does the kinds of things customers need today.
Additionally, Passbook doesn’t rely on merchant payment infrastructure, most of which doesn’t support NFC to begin with.
3. Wireless charging
One of the big features that Nokia touted when it unveiled the Lumia 920 was the wireless inductive charging pad that comes with the device, allowing it to be charged by simply placing it on a special mat. It’s a cool feature that’s certainly within Apple’s capability to develop, but Schiller also elaborated on why it’s more of a gimmick than anything else.
The wireless charging pads still need to be plugged into an outlet, so its added convenience at home is questionable. He added, “Having to create another device you have to plug into the wall is actually, for most situations, more complicated.” In contrast, a device that charges through USB can be plugged into numerous places: wall outlets, computers, cars, and airplanes, among others.
Just say no
Steve Jobs always said one of Apple’s strengths was discipline, even saying he was as proud of the things that Apple hasn’t done as he was of the things it has done. He added, 'Innovation is saying 'no' to 1,000 things."
In this case, Apple just had to say no to three.
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