My iPhone 5 Will Be Naked
Does a smartphone have to be huge to be worthwhile? Can an iPhone owner get by in this world without a protective case? It's worth a try, anyway. And while we're on the topic, yes, you can be a man and still carry a phone that's elegant rather than a behemoth with an overclocked processor the size of an NBA player's shoe.
09/20/12 5:00 AM PT
As I anxiously wait for my shiny new iPhone 5 to arrive on Friday -- like 2 million others -- my thoughts first turned to protective cases. Would any be available? How long before manufacturers caught up with Apple's secrecy machine and started producing them so I could buy one? And screen protectors, when will my favorite screen protector company be able to deliver?
Then I realized that maybe now, finally, I don't need a case at all. After all, what do I value more and more out of my iPhone? Pocketability. When I'm using it, I want it big enough and when I'm not I don't even want to know it exists. This flies directly in the face of the tech club who believes that bigger is better, that a massive screen equates to productivity and joy. I shake my head at these guys who like the big smartphones, but I don't hold any real animosity. To each their own -- as long as you're not a woman who wears tight jeans, mind you. Here's a story:
Last weekend I went out for wings at a sports bar with a couple of guys who sell a lot of Android phones. Both have huge phones. One is a Motorola man about to upgrade to another Motorola, and the other had a Samsung Galaxy S II that he rooted, primarily, it seems, so he could overclock it to make it run faster, even at the expense of his battery life. The screen is brilliant but huge. When he pulled it out to look up some sports score or something, I was taken aback, as I often am when I see the sheer size of these things, so I asked him, "Hey, so do you have a tailor?"
"Oh, you know, so you can have your pockets specially modified so you can fit your phone into them."
He got the joke and laughed.
"I can't imagine being a woman and trying to fit that into a jeans pocket," I said.
"Yeah," he admitted, "If you're a girl this phone isn't for you."
And my buddy's Motorola seemed even larger, but that could have been due to the overall shape.
I see quite a few women stick their smartphones into their back pockets. I tend to weigh a lot more than your average woman, so I tend to avoid this. Last thing I want to do is snap my iPhone when I sit in a chair. So I go with a front pocket or side pocket. My point? The pocket is always the least common denominator for where to put a smartphone, even when a woman may or may not have a purse. (As for man bags, I don't even know what those are, so we'll leave that topic off the table.)
Is iPhone 5 the Perfect Size?
No doubt, the current iPhone 4 and 4S screen size is too small. Sure, it's a workable size, but it's far from perfect. The iPhone 5 screen is longer, 4-inches on the diagonal, which basically gives us room in iOS for a new row of app icons. Nice. It'll make movie and video watching better, plus give us more room for content. And yet the iPhone 5 is 20 percent lighter and 18 percent thinner than the iPhone 4S.
As near as I can tell so far, without holding one until it arrives, I'll have more screen real estate and still be able to one-hand the iPhone just fine. Plus it's an overall smaller device.
That's what I wanted. That's what I want now. I don't want a bigger, fatter screen. I don't want to jam a "phablet" into a pocket or hold a paperback book up to my head to talk. I want a smaller phone, not a bigger one. Not Zoolander small, but pocketable. When my iPhone is light enough that I can't feel it banging against the side of my leg while wearing cargo shorts -- that's what I'm looking for.
Maybe I'm a Girl
Nah. I've never been accused of being girlish. My colleague, Rob Enderle over at TechNewsWorld, seems to think the iPhone 5 was made just for Mrs. Jobs. He even seems to think that it's a girly phone and that he wants a more manly phone. Rob is a pretty sharp guy, actually, and I'm not sure if he's 100 percent serious or joking a bit to amp up his point.
Is there some kind overcompensation going on here with big phones? I thought we were done with that after the economy tanked and driving gussied up civilian Hummers wasn't so cool any more. Now I have to pack a big phone to be a man? Right. Wait. Where's my belt smartphone holster? I can attach my phone to a quick-draw holster on my hip. That's the most manly thing I can imagine. If I can only find space on my gadget belt ... I'll have to take something off. I think my ninja throwing star case will have to go. The last time I threw a star into a cubicle wall at the office, well, I got in quite a lot of trouble. I mean, everyone and my boss thought I was awesome -- just not HR. HR was not amused.
Backing away from the gender issue, I can see how folks use their smartphones as tools, as major input devices for email and work applications. For these people, I can see where having more screen could be useful. I'm just not that person. Sure, I travel a bit for business, attend conferences and events, but if anything, when I'm traveling I want a phone that's more discreet, that's smaller, a bit less conspicuous -- particularly when some session drones on and I need to shock my brain back to life with a pithy headline or two.
My iPhone 5 Will Be Naked This Time Around
For the first year, my iPhone 4 sported a solid full-wrap case. Not bulletproof or waterproof, but solid. When it broke, I got another, slightly slimmer full case. When it broke, I started using one of the Antennagate super-slim cases that basically covered the sides and back of the iPhone 4. And you know what? I liked it. My iPhone was easier to get into and out of pockets, friendlier to hold, and it felt like I was holding an iPhone and not a case.
This time around, I'm going to run around with my iPhone 5 naked -- no bulky case, no slim case, just the iPhone 5. I'll use it the way Apple intended. Will I drop and break it? Maybe. But it has the aluminum rear, now, with better front glass placement. Besides, the big Android phones . . . most of those I see around don't have cases, presumably because they would be waaay too big then, right?
So I'm just saying, I'm coming around to this idea of a more perfect size. Of tradeoffs not being tradeoffs. We'll see, of course, but I'm just saying -- halfway through my iPhone 4 lifespan, I ditched the protective case and went with a thin open shell. I liked it.
There's More to Size Than Meets the Eye
So what else is going on? While the iPhone is the most popular smartphone, Android-based phones and the up-and-coming competition continue to beat it out. Sure, some of the numbers are for cheaper Android phones while others will be for high-quality units from major manufacturers. I don't think there will ever be more iPhones out and about than other smartphones put together. In fact, the iPhone's marketshare, despite wicked crazy fast iPhone 5 sales, will likely decline as more and more people get into smartphones that are not the iPhone.
Meanwhile, Apple's stock has shot past the US$700 per share mark. Whoa. Investors believe in Apple's ability to produce units that are in demand that people want. There's a clear and solid fan base for the iPhone and iOS, and the iPhone and the OS are clearly connected. Android? Not so much. There are different versions, different skins, and while the size of the Android population is quite large, the numbers are fractured -- fractured by app stores, OS versions, and manufacturer-based support features and navigation strategies. The point is that the Apple iPhone universe is now big enough that it doesn't have to have the largest market share to maintain a huge identity in the world. It's a diluted size vs. a concentrated one.
So how does size really matter to Apple fans here? It means we can count on Apple to produce a seamless experience for us for years to come. There's customer demand, there's revenue, there's industry support. Lots of accessories, lots of apps, lots of iPhone action to keep us happy.
The iPhone 5, any way you look at it, seems to me to be more than big enough.