September is clearly the go-to month for the discerning multinational company wishing to bestow its latest and greatest gadgetry upon the world. Not only did we have IFA, and all the myriad product launches that brought, but Apple and Nokia have recently held conferences to launch new iterations of their halo devices, ensuring the hearts and minds – and wallets -- of their loyal customers remain firmly within reach.
It's fall, and with the fruit ripening on the trees we have entered that special time of year – yes, it's time for Apple to present its newest iPhone to a fanbase so religiously devoted, the Catholic Church must surely be studying their PR department. After the relatively underwhelming launch of last year's 4S, a phone many were certain would be a radical redesign from the industrial beauty of the 4, Apple saw fit to continue the disappointing trend with this year's second-most-talked-about phone – after Samsung's Galaxy S3 – the iPhone 5.
That's not to say that the iPhone doesn't get a lot of things right. The screen has finally been upgraded, inching closer in size to its smartphone contemporaries, stretching to 4 inches from its previous 3.5 – a size Steve Jobs once described as the ''sweet spot," but which has become almost comically undersized in light of Apple's rivals with whom 4.8 inches is the new norm. An increase in resolution to match the new height brings the iPhone closer to a 16:9 aspect ratio, which will finally help remove the black bars ubiquitous when watching properly formatted media on the device. Around the elongated display, Apple has flexed its manufacturing muscle, bringing a much-needed refresh. Gone is the glass back, replaced instead with brushed aluminum and two glass bands to aid reception. At the front, the new 720p Facetime camera has been centered above a display that boasts in-cell technology, reducing the air between layers and allowing for less glare and faster response times. That display is rumored to be coated in Gorilla Glass, which should remove the screen cracking worries of old.
The new, slender iPhone -- which is just 7.6mm, making it one of the world's thinnest devices – has been put on a strict diet, shedding 20 percent of the 4S's weight to clock in at 3.9 ounces. Apple hasn't removed anything, though, instead cramming a new, more powerful A6 processor inside, complete with better power management and a claimed performance that's two-times better than last year's model. Tied to that is 1GB RAM, which should help the upcoming iOS 6 run as beautifully as the somewhat tired-looking OS can, and storage is the usual 16, 32 or 64GB.
The camera remains the same at 8MP, matching the Galaxy S3 and HTC One X, but Apple has endowed it with additional software features to make those low-res Instagram photos of your cat look even better, including a faster shutter, a new panoramic mode that stiches together a 28MP photo, 1080p video capture and speed increases across the board. Your improved snaps can be uploaded through built-in LTE that runs on Verizon, Sprint and AT&T, or uploaded to your PC via Apple's new Lightning connector, which replaces the old 30-pin adaptor with a marginally faster connection that renders all previous Apple accessories obsolete without the optional $29 adapter. Well, this is capitalism, after all -- you didn't expect it for free, did you?
The new iPhone does an excellent job of playing catch-up with the best of the Android bunch, bringing a much-needed increase in screen size without sacrificing ergonomics, and boosting features such as the speed of the device, the camera, and number of times you can tweet about your fascinating life before the battery cuts out. What Apple failed to do, though, was give the iPhone arguably the most important addition it needed – it doesn't wow. Gone are the days of old when a new iPhone would leave competitors scrambling to match its features. Now, with the latest Android handsets consistently setting the benchmark, the iPhone is left somewhat in the shade. That's not to detract from what is arguably one of the best hardware and software combos in the market, but no longer does the iPhone rule the smartphone roost the way it did when it revitalized the sector in 2007. And so we're left with a device that, while still great, no longer can be held up to the world as the pinnacle of gadgetry. Rather, we have a great looking phone that is just that. Another phone.