Although it has fallen short of the ten million sales that some analysts had predicted, the iPhone 5 has unsurprisingly enjoyed the best iPhone launch to date. Apple sold over 2 million within one hour and has managed to rack up over 5 million sales during the phone’s launch weekend – beating the iPhone 4S’ earlier record of 4 million.
The iPhone 5 has become the most popular iPhone due to its larger screen, faster performance and lighter design. But amongst the praise and the positive reviews there has also been an unprecedented level of criticism regarding certain aspects of the phone’s design.
The most publicised complaints against the iPhone 5 have been with the new Maps app. Users have reported badly rendered 3D models in the new flyover mode; towns and cities being labelled incorrectly or not at all; bus stops and train stations being absent from the map; cloudy satellite images; inaccurate local business information; and turn-by-turn navigation sending people in the completely wrong direction, to name just a few problems.
Apple founder Steve Wozniak publically stated this week that he thought the app was “disappointing”, but also highlighted the fact that the problems are probably not quite as severe as many people are claiming. Even so, Apple has been accused of rushing its new Maps app and not giving it the same level of care and attention as it has done for earlier features.
The new Maps app was designed to replace the earlier Google powered Maps app but many people feel that Apple seems to care more about removing Google’s influence from the iPhone than the user experience of its own customers.
Apple has already started hiring many former Google employees who had worked on the development of Google Maps in an attempt to address the issues being raised, but it is clear that the new app needs a lot more work done to it before it reaches the standard that consumers expect.
LCD Screen Issues
Although the new Maps app and all its alleged failings have been attracting a lot of attention in the media, it is by no means the only problem that users are experiencing.
The iPhone 5 uses a new type of screen technology called in-cell panels, which merge the touch sensitive sensors within the LCD screen rather than placing them in an additional layer above. This new screen technology has not been used in a smartphone before and appears to be the source of a lot of issues for the new iPhone.
Some users have reported a “bubble effect” when pressing the screen while others have complained of flickering screens. The difficulty in producing the in-cell panels is also responsible for the stock shortages that have resulted in many people having to wait a few weeks before their iPhone 5 is delivered.
Some users have also reported “light leakage” beneath the power button. This is a minor cosmetic issue and is only really noticeable in dark environments – but it is by no means the only cosmetic issue facing the new iPhone.
A lot of customers have been complaining that their new iPhones have arrived badly scratched or dented in what some people are already referring to as “scuffgate”.
This problem seems to have arisen from the anodized aluminium used to manufacture the iPhone 5. Anodized aluminium is much softer than the stainless steel used for the iPhone 4 and 4S. While this allows the iPhone 5 to be much lighter, it also makes it more prone to damage – even while being delivered in the mail.
Shortly before the iPhone launch earlier this month, a Foxconn employee had stated that the first batch of iPhones being produced suffered from poor build quality. The same source also stated that the next batch, due to be shipped in early October, shouldn’t be affected by the same issues – although this is no comfort for consumers who have spent large amounts of money on a damaged phone.
If the badly designed Maps app, LCD problems and Scuffgate weren’t enough, some iPhone 5 owners are reporting difficulties with connecting to Wi-Fi networks. This issue has also been reported from users of older iPhones that have updated to iOS 6, suggesting that this is a software issue and not a problem with the iPhone 5’s hardware.
Apple is working on a fix and a software update will no doubt be issued in the near future, but Apple has also stated that it currently has no idea what is causing the problems.
Worth the Hype?
Smartphones are extremely complex gadgets that rely on the interaction of many different components, and as such it is easy for some things to go wrong. The iPhone 5 is by no means the only phone to experience difficulties, but the amount of new problems arising almost on a daily basis can only be causing embarrassment for Apple.
If the Foxconn employee who blabbed about the build quality of the iPhone 5 is to be believed then many of the phone’s problems should be resolved within the next month or two. It may be some time before Apple gets its new Maps app up to the same standard as Google Maps but it should also be pointed out that many of the other problems highlighted above have only affected a small number of iPhones.