From the Apple team that brought us smartphones that changed everything – again - comes the iPhone 5: the phone that changed very little. For the first time.
'Evolution not revolution’ is the phrase several commentators are turning to when summing up Apple’s newest release. Lighter, thinner and faster than its predecessors, the iPhone 5 nonetheless lacks the ‘wow’ factor we have come to expect from its makers. Hardly surprising really, given that it is the sixth incarnation of Apple’s ground-breaking smartphone.
Publishers and reporters hoping that with the new iPhone Apple would provide tools and technology that could once again change to face of journalism are likely to be disappointed. Certain features will endear the new handset to journalists who use, or want to use, their smartphones for on-the-ground reporting and information gathering. However in terms of its being used as a reporting gadget, there is little that sets the new model apart from its previous incarnation.
The iPhone 5 has three microphones in total, at the front, back and bottom, meaning it is better adapted to audio recording for interviews. Although the camera is virtually the same 8-megapixel model found in the iPhone 4s, users are now able to take still image snapshots whilst filming and a built-in panorama feature make it possible to capture full landscapes and wide images. Reviewing the new iPhone for Nieman Lab, Joshua Benton is of the opinion that the camera updates make the iPhone’s latest incarnation a “more appealing multimedia-capture device for reporters on the go.” News apps may benefit from the extra space afforded by the iPhone 5’s larger screen, which has increased from 3.5 to 4 inches, but for the moment there is no real rush to re-format applications as the phone will automatically centralise them.
It is almost impossible to overstate the impact the original iPhone had on the world of news consumption, production and reporting. When it first burst on to the scene in 2007, the Apple iPhone was arguably the first major step towards making the news mobile. Thanks to news apps on what was (and still is) essentially a hand-held computer, readers did not have to cart around a print newspaper or remain stationary in front of a computer monitor. The iPhone opened up the reporting process, allowing both reporters and aspiring citizen journalists to capture and share newsworthy images anywhere and at any time.
After such an explosive beginning it is perhaps unreasonable to expect Apple to change the landscape of journalism, business and technology with every new smartphone product. In the likely event that over the next couple of years the company will seek to tweak the existing iPhone product rather than attempting radical innovation, newsrooms and journalists will probably see features already at their disposal refined and perfected.
As things stand, perhaps the most significant development the iPhone 5 offers to journalists and news organisations are the improvements made to download speed. With LTE support now in place, browsing, downloading and streaming with the iPhone 5 will be quicker than ever before. Faster downloads will be music to the ears of news media organisations at a time when the number of online video ventures is on the rise. This summer alone, a plethora of online and mobile news video services have appeared, from the Associated Press’s new Video Hub, the WSJ’s live streaming channel and the NowThisNews project. David Hoad, the AP’s director of global video, is adamant that online and digital news audiences now expect video as well as text-based reporting, and enhanced wireless connections will facilitate and encourage greater sharing of moving content. It’s not a revolutionary leap, but it is a useful step in the dissemination of the news.