I’ve in the past rallied against Apple complicating its device line-ups, but I’ve changed my mind about the iPhone and would now be quite happy in the future to see an iPhone mini. The device that prompted this change of heart was… the iPhone 5. I’d not actually used one before, but TechRadar temporarily sent me theirs, so I could write a couple of articles.
I don’t like it.
This surprised me. I cannot think of another iOS device evolution I’ve not cared for. Even the iPad 3 didn’t bother me, because I skipped and never used the lighter, thinner iPad 2. Perhaps I’d get used to the iPhone 5 over time, but it simply doesn’t feel right to me. It’s ungainly and awkward to use—the taller screen feels like a compromise to enable Apple to strut its stuff in the bigger-screen pissing competition. On the iPhone 4, my normal-sized hand can comfortably use the device and reach almost all of the screen. On the iPhone 5, no chance. I have to stretch, which feels wrong; and as someone with RSI, this makes me wonder exactly how much pain I’d be in after long-term use.
Of course, one might argue I’m holding it wrong. I should, clearly, change how I interact with the device. But in switching from one hand to two or holding the device in a less secure manner, that feels like defeat. It feels like bending to the will of relatively poor ergonomic design, and it also makes me want to punch whoever okayed the rather misleading Thumb commercial.
iOS dev Neil Gall responded earlier on Twitter about this, saying “I’ve been yelling my distaste for the comically long, ergonomically challenged thing since launch,” and I get the feeling my wife’s going to cling on to her iPhone 4S for dear life, rather than upgrade. My mother also wanted an old iPod touch rather than the new one (with the same proportions as the iPhone 5), solely because of the form factor, although she went for the newer model on the basis of the superior camera. She’s still not overly happy with it.
Perhaps, then, the iPhone should have a ‘mini’ version somehow, although instead of a teeny tiny device, it could retain a similar form factor to the iPhone 4S. I don’t see that happening though—this summer, the iPhone 5 will be bumped one rung down the ladder and the iPhone 4S will probably become the free iOS device. One more revision and only 16:9 devices will remain. Ironically, the Android devices Apple clearly responded to with the new form factor will continue to offer more variation, including one of the current trends: smaller devices. It’s not enough to get me to switch, but then I’m now looking towards whatever iPhone Apple unveils this summer without any sense of excitement, for the first time.