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What the iPhone 5 needs to drive me back into the arms of Apple

iPhone 5 mockupI’ve been an Android user for over a year now, but last week I was parsing through news of iOS6 just as breathlessly as ever. What conclusions about the upcoming iPhone 5 could we tease out of its software? Were there any new killer apps? In other words, will the iPhone 5 make me go back after a two-year hiatus?

The split

Apple and I didn’t have some sort of dramatic break-up. I didn’t stand out in the rain one day with my iPhone 3G aloft, cursing at the wind and lightning that I would never love it again. It was, quite simply, a business decision made by someone with less disposable income than the typical Apple user.

In April of last year, it was upgrade time. I went in, fiddled around with the same iPhone 4 I had been fiddling with for nearly a year, looked at the $199 price and the specs as if I hadn’t already memorized them, and then put the phone down to play with the Androids. The HTC Inspire 4G had just come out at the time, but was shockingly being offered for $99. With a trade-in of the old 3G, that made it free.

Bigger screen than the iPhone 4? Check.

Faster processor? Check.

Better camera? By about 5 megapixels.

So I left the speed-dating scene at AT&T with the Inspire. Contrary to what I’ve learned in real life, the cheaper girl really did work out pretty well. My complaints with Android are simply that the ecosystem may be too wide open. As a tinkerer, I am constantly doing things to my phone or downloading apps that make sense at the time, but usually mean that I have to reflash the ROM after a while because I’ve broken something. I long for the safe, predictable experience that only an Apple product can deliver. I need Apple to babysit me and protect me from my own shortcomings. But I’m not willing to take a substandard (and yet, probably more expensive) product to return.

What an iPhone 5 will need to get me back

With my experience using my wife’s iPhone 4S when she isn’t looking, Apple has already fixed two of the things that drove me away to begin with. The iPhone is now just as fast as any Android out there, and takes equally good pictures, if not a little better. Wifey, along with many other 4S adopters, stopped carrying around other cameras, just like I did when I got the Inspire. That’s a good sign.

What I’ve also seen from her phone is that Siri is nearly useless.

siri iphone apple iosShe was a great idea. With some more practice, I might even get better at realizing her strengths so I can stay away from her weaknesses, which seem to be legion. Location services are non-existent. Directions are not given. What’s the point of having what equates to a hands-free device so I can keep my eyes on the road if the thing doesn’t give directions? That was one of the major improvements promised in iOS6, and I can’t wait to see it in action. For those iPhone fan boys who are pointing out right now that Android doesn’t have a Siri equivalent, I say this: If I purchase something with an advertised feature that apparently doesn’t work, that is worth discussing.

I’m also still waiting for the bigger screen. I didn’t think screen size was a big deal until I started reading books on my Kindle Fire. While I like Amazon’s e-reader, I consider it a duplicate device that could be replaced by a phone if I could comfortably read using the Kindle app. The Fire gets the most use from my daughter, who uses it for games and movies on road trips while I fight with Siri. I’m not as young as I used to be, so reading on the iPhone gave me a headache. It’s at least possible on the Inspire. Inspire-sized screen with a Retina display? Reading win and goodbye Fire.

iphone 4s samsung galaxy s3 screen size comparison thicknessAnother thing I’ve found about having a bigger screen? Wider doesn’t matter in terms of fitting in your pocket; thinner does. I’ve wanted to test this theory using a Samsung Galaxy Note, but I’m afraid of being tackled by store security if I put one in my pocket. The iPhone simply isn’t as thin anymore compared to some of these phones, particularly the upcoming Galaxy S III. This just in: Chicks never like to see a bulge in your jeans, no matter what’s causing it.

If I’m honest, what I’m really looking for from the next iPhone can’t be quantified or anticipated. What I need is a game changer, like what Apple just did in the laptop arena with the new MacBook Pro. I need Apple to come out with something that makes you feel stupid if you even consider picking anything else, like a laptop shopper (without budgetary constraints) would be right now if they didn’t pick the MacBook Pro with Retina.

Apple needs to change the game again. Steve Jobs famously said the iPhone was five years ahead of its competitors when he introduced the original version. Those five years are up.

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