I Am Waiting

I like my gadgets, and generally consider myself an early adopter. When my friends are looking at buying a new piece of technology, I am the one they ask as they know I have either owned it or have tried it.
So you might be surprised to learn that my phone is an iPhone 4S and even after the unveiling of the 5s (no, I do not know why it suddenly became lower-case either), I am planning to wait for the iPhone 6 before upgrading.
It is not that the 5s is not impressive from a purely technological viewpoint. It is. A 64-bit phone? That is a pretty incredible achievement. Delegating sensor functions to a separate chip to enable constant use without the usual battery drain?
A truly state-of-the-art fingerprint sensor?
A larger phone sensor with lower pixel-density? Exactly the right approach, and I was delighted to see Apple refusing to join in the stupid megapixel race.
But I am still not going to buy one.
Much as I love hi-tech solutions for their own sake, I still need to see practical benefit. While I am wowed by the 64-bit CPU, I cannot honestly think of a single occasion when I have been using an app and wishing my phone were faster. Perhaps I would if I were a gamer, but I am generally not. My experience of using my 4S is that I touch a button and something happens. Mobile data delays, sure, but waiting for the processor to do something? Does not ever happen for me.
It is not like a laptop. The switch from 32-bit to 64-bit there was night-and-day with some tasks, like processing lots of photos and video editing. But those processor-intensive operations are not the kind of thing I do on my phone.


The M7 co-processor really is a piece of genius. If you are not familiar with the concept, normally the CPU the A7 chip in this case does pretty much all of the work. Not just running apps, but also all the background stuff too: keeping track of the phone’s orientation, looking out for new wifi networks to join, that kind of stuff. What the 5s does is have a separate chip to take care of the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass. For example, if you are running a fitness app, instead of the CPU being active the whole time, collecting that data and passing it to the app, the M7 chip simply logs it all and makes it available later to any app on demand. That means the A7 chip has less to do, and you get better battery life.
But in my typical usage, it is rare for me to run out of battery life. My office is at home, and I have an iPhone dock in my car, so the phone generally only needs to operate on battery power for a few hours at a time. There are exceptions, but for most of those the 4S still copes and there are battery power cases for the few times they are needed.


Fingerprint sensors are not new, and they have even made it into phones before, but the 5s one is incredibly advanced. With many fingerprint sensors, you have to roll your finger across them, and the finger has to be in a consistent orientation. With the 5s sensor, all you do is touch, and it offers 360-degree recognition, so it does not matter how you are holding the phone or how you apply your finger.
I love that. But it is not enough. Give me fingerprint-protected NFC, so I can leave my wallet at home and only carry my phone, and I would have been setting up camp outside my local Apple Store. Let me unlock my banking app and Paypal account and I would have been pretty tempted. But just to unlock my phone? Well, that’s a waste of good technology.


I have been using my phone more and more to take professional photos and that new phone sensor and f/2.2 lens? Ok, Apple, I admit you did tempt me there. While everyone else crams in more and more pointless megapixels to a tiny sensor just so they can put an impressive-sounding number on the box, you actually understand photography. You know that once you have enough megapixels to produce a decent-sized print (and honestly, even 4MP achieves that), what matters is the quality of those pixels. And for quality, sensor size is king. Couple that with a wide-aperture lens to let in as much light as possible and you have a camera that will be incredibly capable in low-light conditions.
The new styling? Hmm, sorry, Jony, it is pretty and all, and you have achieved an absolute miracle in creating a non-tacky-looking gold phone, but I honestly prefer my all-white 4S.


I also will not be buying one because my nearly two-year-old iPhone 4S still looks new. It still looks modern. It still performs beautifully. The buttons and switch all work perfectly. The attention to detail and manufacturing quality that made it a winner then leave it still a winner today. In short, if I were to walk into a phone store today and buy my 4S, I would be happy with my purchase.
Apple, you got me to upgrade from the iPhone 4 to the 4S. Siri did that. But I will be able to get the iOS 7 goodness just like those who have splashed out on the 5s, and there is nothing else I want enough to join them. In essence, Apple, by creating a quality phone and then allowing me to update it to the latest software two years later, you have cost yourself a sale.
But then that is also the reason I will likely still be a customer many years from now. Long-term, Apple’s strategy is bang on the money.