Is it worth extra 100 bucks?
By Cho Mu-hyun
Apple’s iPhone 5 is finally out but there were few surprises. The U.S. tech giant’s new device has received a mixed response not only from industry experts but also from consumers as it is seemingly lacking in innovative features.
Simply put, the new phone is bigger, faster and slimmer but hasn’t had much of an upgrade from its predecessor, the iPhone 4S, except for prices. Apple said that the 16-GB iPhone 5 is priced at $199, $100 more than iPhone 4S. It trimmed the price of the older device to $99 at the release of the new one. Now there is a simple question — what’s the better buy?
Industry experts said that there is no reason for iPhone 4S users to pay an extra $100 to get a new handset because the now-outdated 4S may be still be the better deal.
“It may be better for iPhone 4S users to just “keep their handsets” as the older model will also get the iOS 6 upgrade,” Kim Sang-pyo, an analyst at HMC Investment Securities, told The Korea Times over the phone.
The Cupertino, Calif.-based company unveiled the iPhone 5 in San Francisco, Tuesday. The flagship phone packs a 4-inch screen, a self-developed A6 processor and has fourth generation (4G) long-term evolution (LTE) connectivity, which matched leaks and industry predictions.
Korean rivals Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, which are scheduled to unveil new high-end phones in the coming months, were not impressed by the latest handset, claiming it was pretty much what they expected.
“I don’t think any of the manufacturers are concerned over the new iPhone 5, as it was pretty much what they expected. Rather, they seem confident to acquire more subscribers due to the widening use of LTE,” said an industry official who spoke only on condition of anonymity.
“Due to frequency differences, domestic handset makers have had the advantage of releasing their LTE model phones earlier than Apple here. The early start will make a clear difference.”
Korea was ruled out of the two launch dates — September 21 and 28 — revealed at the event. Industry analysts here predict that the touch-screen device will go on sale in late October, or early November due to it having to be adapted to frequency differences.
Apple CEO Tim Cook called the iPhone 5 “the biggest thing to happen to iPhone since the iPhone.” Marketing chief Phil Schiller called the device “an absolute jewel.”
Industry analyst here mostly disagreed with Apple’s self-evaluation, especially on the handset itself, saying it was “not a revolution.” While they concurred that sales will likely be the best ever for the firm globally, it will be weak here in Korea due to stiff competition from rivals with better LTE-enabled handsets.
“The market is hugely disappointed on the specs of iPhone 5,” said Kim of HMC Investment Securities. “Unlike last year when the iPhone 4S was released, where there was some noticeable innovations, the new handset merely got thinner and larger.”
The new phone is 18 percent thinner and 20 percent lighter than its predecessor, but the analyst said people never really bought Apple products for their “weight or thickness.”
“One of the most sensitive things that consumers care about in smartphones is battery life. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 2 packs a 3100 mAH one, while LG’s Optimus G’s battery was enhanced drastically as well. Despite Apple’s insistence that its battery was boosted, it is weaker than rivals here.”
John Park, an analyst at Daishin Securities concurred: “There were no remarkable features in the new phone. User interfaces were not surprising, while hardware specification was not much different than competitors,” he said by telephone. He did say that sales of the new phone will topple that of 4S in the fourth quarter as there are huge pools of consumers worldwide who have waited for the new offering.
“The iPhone 5 marks the end of innovation for Apple and the whole industry. Starting next year, as the standard of high-end phones is equalized between companies the competition will come from price. Apple will no longer be on the offensive with innovations, but will be on the defense against rising rivals.”
Park also didn’t rule out the possibility that Samsung Electronics may sue Apple over LTE patents: “Apple had an edge in patent for design, not in wireless technology. The iPhone 5 doesn’t have any new aspects design wise, and Samsung outnumbers them in technology patents. The court battle between the two will now be conducted on a more equal footing.”
The Suwon, Korea based electronics giant has vowed to sue Apple for violating its LTE patents with the new device.