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BW Businessworld

Perfect As A Crystal

Photo Credit :

The resounding thought in my head as I first held the iPhone 5 in my hand — don’t drop it, don’t drop it, don’t drop it! It’s unexpectedly slippery and glassy and drop it is just what a friend of mine did seconds after being gifted the revered gadget by a doting husband. It promptly responded with a chip on one side. It soon found a home in a case where its beauty will never be seen again.

Think about it: once it’s all covered, it’s no longer such a piece of jewellery, is it?
When not hidden in a case, the iPhone5 is crystal-perfect. Cool, clean, sublime. No one who holds it is immune to the classiness of its form and the satisfying neatness of its lines. They made it as light as they could, even letting go of a long-established connector in favour of a new one, and let me tell you: never has a mere connector received so much press as the “Lightning” as it was discussed threadbare for weeks. 
Turning the iPhone5 on, I found the familiar iOS interface, and I actually didn’t specially notice the five rows instead of four or the longer form factor of the device. This is probably because I’m accustomed to larger smartphones though I did not find the 4-inch iPhone5 feeling tiny. Of course it fit perfectly in one hand and was easy to use. It’s faster, taller, narrower, lighter, prettier, silkier, smoother than all previous iPhones… no one can argue with that. 
It also does have a great camera — among the two or three best ones on a smartphone. With fewer settings than on any other camera on a phone, it took shots that were almost artistic. While perhaps not a dramatic difference from the previous iPhone 4S, it is better with low light shots which are sharp even when there’s a bit of noise.
This time, the iPhone frenzy galvanised Indians, the disposable incomes of whom I’m impressed with considering this smartphone costs close to half a lakh. But it’s often out of stock or out of sight and it’s rare to be able to walk into a store and walk out with one. I was amused at a story I was told about someone who barged into a store wanting to buy 10 iPhone5s. He certainly did not get them but in what was a nasty stroke of misfortune, he lost track of his money bag and was soon poorer by several lakhs. 
Beautiful as a piece of hardware it may be, but the sameness of its interface is no longer doing it justice. If there’s one thing I’d hope Apple does to the next iPhone, it is to completely overhaul the interface with the now boring row of icon after icon on every screen and make it, dare I say it, more Android-like. Now that users have matured a lot more in their use of smartphones, it’s time to un-wall that walled garden a bit and allow for something interesting to happen throughout the interface. 
With an Android device you can all but put our own interface onto it, if you know how to use some of the many launchers available on Google Play. You can have a different look every week, if you like — and I often do. Even Windows 8 has an interface that is often called ‘refreshing’, which 
really means that it’s a welcome departure from the grid of icons we’ve had for too many years. 
With some customisation and personalisation possible, the iPhone would combine nicely with its unmatched universe of apps, each bringing interesting experiences. My friend who’s just been gifted an iPhone5 never really wanted one. She wasn’t ready for the intense involvement she feels a high-end smartphone requires. But then, she’s quickly grown to be able to use it because, as she says, “It’s only a smaller iPad.” 
For those who’ve already been using an iPhone and are confirmed fans, all that will be in the way is finances to get the iPhone5. If that’s no bar, they will want any improvement to a device that’s been beloved to them. Another friend of mine owns the 3GS, 4 and iPhone5 and miraculously uses the lot. But for others who are just graduating to smartphones, consider that the cost must match the subsequent use and involvement to be worthwhile. 
If it’s a first smartphone, and you want the iPhone5 because it’s what everyone says is the best, it would be rather sad to waste it by feeding it and yourself with no apps — and hence no discovery of new ways of doing things. I have often thought that people are more ready for the hardware than they are for newer software and experiences — other than the usual chatting, videos, music and a smatter of games. That’s when half a lakh to make calls and SMS seems quite out of proportion. 
mala(at)pobox(dot)com, (at)malabhargava on Twitter 

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 24-12-2012)