21 Sep 2012 10:12am

The new iPhone lands

The global economy may be on its knees, or at best staggering from crisis to crisis, but there’s one small corner of the technology market that continues to thrive

Apple’s dominance of the mobile phone market continues, with pre-orders for the latest iPhone (out today) topping two million and the now-standard queues forming outside Apple stores across the UK.

The public’s fevered excitement—and the financial bounce from Apple’s booming order book—was even predicted to be enough to bring a useful boost to the flagging US economy. If that was overstating things, it certainly has already done enough to boost the company’s share price, which has rocketed this week to its highest ever value, confirming Apple’s status as the world’s most valuable company.

Meanwhile technology experts who have had any hands-on time with the new iPhone were less impressed. The most obvious change is that the new operating system (iOS6) comes with a new mapping app with cartography designed by Apple. While most things designed by Apple are well received, this time the news was not so welcome, notably because it replaces Google Maps, previously one of the most-used functions on the iPhone.

And the new Apple maps app has been criticised for inaccuracies and inconsistencies. In short, it’s not yet as good as Google Maps. Apple claims it will improve, but it’s given the Apple bashers something to latch on to. The fact that there isn’t a Google Maps app available in the App Store hasn’t helped. But amid the hullabaloo over issues with accuracy, the higher quality of the user experience on the new map app has been overlooked.

On the other hand on the “shiny, shiny gadget” front, the new iPhone performs pretty well. It’s hard to argue with Apple’s claims that this is the lightest, thinnest and fastest iPhone to date (indeed it’s the thinnest smartphone on the market). Being slightly longer than previous iPhones (but the same width) the larger retina display is a welcome improvement. The other major cosmetic change is the new aluminium case, which has met with near-universal approval.

On the inside, a new A6 chip brings a major upgrade in performance, with technology website TechRadar describing the whole experience as “snappier” than its predecessor.

Capable of connecting over the soon-to-appear 4G LTE network, the iPhone5 should all-in offer a welcome boost to web browsing speeds, and with welcome overhauls to other functions including the Siri voice-activated “personal assistant”, there’s plenty to recommend about the new iPhone, but perhaps not enough to make it worth camping outside a shop for.

Richard Cree