Is the iPhone 5 disappointing?

iPhone 5 Announcement Analysis

The only thing more predictable than the iPhone 5 itself was the world’s response to it. Months of leaks, photos and videos leading up to yesterday’s unveiling meant that we all knew exactly what was coming from Apple’s (AAPL) new iPhone, but years of public response to iPhone launches painted an even clearer picture. Just as in years past, people went into Apple’s event on Wednesday looking for the Cupertino, California-based company to shake the Earth with its announcements. And just as in years past, many were disappointed when all they got was what is arguably the best smartphone on the planet.

Let’s look at exactly what Apple announced on Wednesday.

The new iPhone 5 is one of the thinnest flagship smartphones in the world. Not the thinnest, despite the claims of Apple’s marketing boss, but definitely one of the thinnest. What we can safely say, however, is that the new iPhone will be the most solid, well-built smartphone in the world when it launches next week. The iPhone 4S is already a cut above the competition when it comes to build and materials, and the iPhone 5 is a further improvement by all accounts.

As smartphones continue to grow in size, the iPhone has taken some heat for having a 3.5-inch display in a world full of 4- and 5-inch screens. While it’s debatable whether or not an iPhone display that is just taller actually addresses any issue, the new iPhone has been upgraded with a 4-inch display. More importantly perhaps, considering how dull the iPhone has been looking lately, the new iPhone’s display will offer 44% better color saturation compared to the old Retina display.

While I haven’t done any scientific tests comparing the quality of images captured by Apple’s iPhone to images taken on rival smartphones, in my opinion, the iPhone 4S has the best camera of any smartphone I’ve used. And I’ve used pretty much every big-name smartphone on the planet. HTC’s (2498) One X and One S come the closest to matching the iPhone in terms of overall photo quality, but I still find images taken with the iPhone 4S’s camera to be sharper and more accurate in terms of color reproduction.

So, the iPhone 4S already had the best smartphone camera in the world, and now the camera on the iPhone 5 is even better. It captures images faster, performs better in low light, includes a new panorama mode and can capture still images while recording HD video.

Unlike current iPhone models, the iPhone 5 will be compatible with the fastest widely available cellular networks in the world. It took three different versions to pull it off, but Apple’s new iPhone will work on 4G LTE networks all over the world.

In light of the new iPhone’s LTE support, many were worried that battery life would take a serious hit in the iPhone 5. According to Apple, however, the new iPhone’s battery lasts even longer than the battery in the iPhone 4S.

From where I’m sitting, the iPhone 5 looks better in every way. It also sports Apple’s new A6 processor, which offers twice the performance of the A5 chip, and iOS 6, which brings tons of new features to Apple’s mobile platform.

Is the new iPhone 5 perfect? Of course not. There are plenty of annoying things that the iPhone 5 and iOS 6 don’t fix, and we’re not really seeing anything crazy in the new iPhone that will turn the industry on its head. Does a smartphone need to be a game-changer in order to be counted among the best smartphones in the world? And beyond that, what exactly is missing from the iPhone 5 that has people so disappointed? According to The Wall Street Journal, the answer is face unlock.

Apple calls the iPhone 5 “the biggest thing to happen to iPhone since iPhone,” and from the look of things, that statement is accurate. The iPhone 4S is the most popular smartphone of the world, and the iPhone 5 seems better in every way.

Will the iPhone 5 change your life, walk your dog and cure your Jumping Frenchmen of Maine disorder? Certainly not. Apple’s new smartphone will satisfy iPhone owners looking for a substantial upgrade from their current handsets, however, and it will also likely pull a healthy number of new users into Apple’s ecosystem.

Early projections anticipate that Apple could sell more than 60 million iPhone 5 handsets in the three months and one week it will be available this year. If Apple even comes close to matching those estimates, I would hardly call the new iPhone a disappointment.

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