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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

iPhone5: 3 weeks in

Posted on October 26, 2012 at 3:00 PM

It was no secret that my previous phone was pretty old school. And by “old school,” I mean “lame.” In fact Lady Phone garnered quite a reputation for herself (actually garnering a Twitter parody account at one point, which, I can say now, was NOT run by me but rather the very clever Sarah Fleishman from Access Networks) usually eliciting responses like, “Oh my God! That really is your phone! I just thought that it was some kind of joke! That’s hilarious! I can’t believe you actually have a pink phone!” (This then followed by several minutes of laughing, asking to hold the phone, confirming I really use the phone, questions about *why* I use the phone, don’t I want a better phone, etc.)

(For the record, here’s a quick rundown detailing how I came to acquire a pink – technically “mauve/berry” in Samsung-speak or what I preferred to call “mangenta” – phone. Immediately before CEDIA a few years ago I went swimming with my original manly black phone in my pocket. I realized this as I was completely submerged and when I got out the phone was ruined. So I went down to T-Mobile to see what I was eligible for. I picked out a phone – the Samsung Gravity 2 – because I liked that it had actual buttons and a slide-out QWERTY and yet could access the Interwebs. Also, it came in orange and black. Unfortunately, they were out of that color and only had the pink one. Since I had to have a phone for CEDIA, I took it. By the time I returned, it was too late to exchange it. So, Lady Phone was born...)

(One last look at Lady Phone)

So after finally deciding to make the move to what I like to call “my big boy phone,” and living with the iPhone5 for a few weeks, here are my thoughts. You may be surprised to find there is stuff that I actually miss about my old Lady… Also, please keep in mind that the iPhone5 is really my first foray into owning a “smart phone,” so my comments of what it does isn’t intended to be a comparison or dig at any of the other phones out there and what they do or don’t do.


Apple’s packaging is quite simply amazing. There is like almost no wasted or unused space in the package. They don’t feel the need to over inflate the importance of the product by sandwiching it into a huge box so it stands out at retail. Instead they use the bare minimum of space, which makes it also incredibly green. (Less materials, less waste, less shipping weight/costs, etc.) The box measures a scant 5 ¾ x 1 ¾ x 3 1/8 inches. Packed beautifully inside is the phone, the charging cable, the power adapter, the EarPod headphones, a quick start guide and the apparently pre-requisite set of two, white Apple stickers. Apparently the section the headphones are packed into is even water soluble. (Note: Apparently that is only for the new 5th-Gen iPod Touch and 7 Gen iPod Nano, not the iPhone5.)

Look/Feel, Fit/Finish

Opening up the box, you can’t help but think, “Damn! This thing is F-I-N-E, fine!” The phone is amazingly sleek and thin and light. One of my employees has a large Samsung (Galaxy 3) and after seeing how giant that thing was, I knew I didn’t want it. I like to carry my phone in my pocket, and the Galaxy just looks like you’re inviting a, “So is that an entire Galaxy in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?!” kind of comment. Also, it’s not like I’m ever going to need to watch a movie or read a book on my phone. I have my iPad for that. The iPhone5 slips easily into my pocket and isn’t an encumbrance even when sitting/driving. Consider the iPhone5 an elegant phone for a more civilized age. The height and weight feel really nice as well, and the phone feels really solid, and fits well in the hand whether you are calling or browsing. Visually, with the brushed metal back and the thin side profile and the big screen are pretty striking. When I first got it, people were all, “Oh! Is that the new iPhone? Can I see it?” It just looks frickin’ cool. I don’t like how the phone gets your cheek oil all over the screen, but maybe that is just inevitable with all touchscreen phones. Or maybe my cheek is abnormally oily.  


Activating the phone was pretty similar to switching to a new iOS. It asks you the language and do you want to use location services and some other pretty basic information that was really a breeze. Since I already own an iPad, I knew a lot of the stuff I needed to do (ie: add email, link Twitter, sign in with my Apple ID, how to use the camera and Face Time, linking email address, etc.) Since we switched carriers, Verizon ported over my old phone number in a few moments and the phone was good to go. I took my old phone in to Verizon and they ported all the contact numbers from my old phone to my phone saving me a bunch of time. Then once I married the phone to my iTunes account by connecting it to my computer, it brought in all of my apps. I selected several playlists of music to import, and it also brought in all of the other contacts that had been stored on my iPad.


Apple made a big deal over the new included headphones called EarPods. The last gen ‘phones that was included with seemingly every Apple i-Device were pretty lame. Hard, plastic, small, and poor sounding. Lame. I think I’ve got like 4 pair just sitting in a drawer just waiting for the Apocalypse. (Do zombies like music?) While I have a ton of great headphones – thanks, Etymotic, Future Sounds, and Martin Logan! – and can’t imagine actually using the EarPods consistently, I thought I’d at least give the phones a try to see what they have to offer. First, they have an unusual shape that is supposed to better fit into the natural shape of your ear or something. The thing is, they don’t seat real well in MY ears. They just kind of rest in the ear not creating any kind of a seal, which means you hear a ton of ambient noise. I’m used to phones that really create a tight seal, so for me these constantly felt loose. Sonically, they’re actually not too bad. And by “not too bad” I mean that if you are too cheap to spring for a decent pair of $100-200 phones that will *greatly* improve your music listening experience, then at least you won’t be forced to listen to horrible audio. Without the tight seal you also don’t get a lot of deep bass, but they are definitely “listenable.” The phones do have a volume +/- tab the hangs down by the right phone that is handy for adjustment and also includes a built in microphone. Actually, I think the ability to receive phone calls is the best thing about the EarPods, and I totally wish my “premium” phones would offer that feature. And calls through the EarPods sounded better/clearer to me and they have a cord long enough that I can keep the phone in my pocket, so it’s kind of a hands-free feature.


The synching between devices – iPad and iPhone in my case -- is amazingly cool. When you make a change to a document in Pages (Apple’s word processing program), or update a contact or set a reminder, it automatically syncs it either to or from my iPad/Phone. Read a book in one, it will update your progress on the other. This is awesome. I often work on beer reviews on my iPad and then email them to myself. Now, they are instantly on both devices. The other night I set a reminder on my iPhone to remember to turn off the water filling our pool and it popped up on my iPad. You can really see how the complete, integrated iLife would be appealing as all of your information is easily and automatically shared across your devices.


I *really* miss the tactile buttons of Lady Phone. I could bang out no-look, one-thumb, text messages using the T9 predictive texting capability like Jason Kidd making bounce-off-your-chest-cause-you-weren’t-ready passes. But you can do very, VERY little without *actively* looking at the iPhone’s screen. Even answering the phone requires a swipe/slide of the screen. It’s easy to see why so many people with smart phones get into wrecks. The screen does seem very responsive, but it gets really dirty/oily/smudgey (especially with the screen protector we put on it). Also the actual virtual keyboard that pops up is pretty tiny and I frequently mis-type things. (Though I’ve discovered to not look at each letter and just type out the whole word and often the phone gets it right.) It’s definitely better when the phone is in landscape mode, but that isn’t always convenient to flip it on its side. What does work terrifically is taping a little microphone for speech-to-text. With this is can dictate messages rapidly and accurately and then touch them up if there are any errors. Also key was discovering that I can say “period,” “question mark,” “comma,” or “exclamation point” to add punctuation and speak entire sentences/paragraphs. That has definitely been a huge saving grace for the keypad. (Though it takes a bit of getting used to people looking at you while you are constantly dictating things to your phone.) The high-res, Retina display looks great, and the phone is very bright and easy to read in every lighting condition I’ve been in so far.


Having Siri has been pretty awesome actually. It is great for when you’re driving and want to call or text someone. It handles chores like “Call so-and-so” amazingly well. It also is great for things like “Send a message (or e-mail) to so-and-so.” “OK. What would you like the message to say?” This is by far the biggest thing I’ve utilized Siri for and it works great for that. It will also read messages for you (but not Tweets or e-mail). Siri is also great for setting reminders or alarms. Now when Dana or someone (Dana) asks me to do something, I immediately just say, “Siri, remind me to…” and then it’s, well, not done, but a good bit closer to actually *probably* getting done. I’m not a big sports guy, but with the Giants in the World Series hunt, it has been cool to ask her about sports scores. Siri is also great for getting the weather or asking for directions. It’s also great if you want to look something up but don’t want to open a Web browser and then type in the search. Siri understands my voice VERY well – probably high 95% accuracy when I’m talking about things that don’t have unusual names – but it can’t understand Lauryn for anything. Sometimes Siri is very responsive and other times it sits there thinking and thinking and thinking. It can be the exact same request and sometimes it just takes a while to process it. Also, Siri isn’t as “funny” as the ads would lead you to believe. Ask her to sing you a song or tell you a story or a joke and she’ll often say, “You wouldn’t like my voice” or “I don’t feel like it” “You wouldn’t understand.” But as an automated assistant, I find myself using Siri several times a day.

The “Phone” Part

One of the reasons why I wasn’t in a hurry to upgrade to begin with was that first-and-foremost, I need my phone to be an actual phone. The calling part is the main thing I use the phone for, and Lady Phone was a great phone-phone. While Apple was locked into AT&T, I knew it was a no-go to upgrade as AT&T service stinks in our area. (It literally has no reception in my office.) But with Verizon, I must say that I’ve yet to have a no service situation. The phone still has that kind of hollow, lifeless, “digital” quality to it. It also takes the phone a couple of seconds to answer. You’ll accept a call but then have to wait a beat before you say hello. I do like that when a call is coming in you can simultaneously decline it (send it to voicemail) and reply with one of four pre-selected texts like, “I’m busy right now and will call you right back.” That’s pretty slick. I also like how you can dictate numbers to Siri – “Call 8435551212” and it’ll do it. So far, I’m not unhappy with the iPhone5 as a phone.


I had a bad habit of forgetting Lady Phone’s charger when I’d go on a trip, and she would often last *days* on a single charge. Granted I wasn’t using it for Web surfing, but that battery was a strong-like-bull workhorse. The iPhone, however, is good to make it through a single work day, but usually by 11 at night, I’m in the 20% battery range. After one day with a lot of gaming and Web browsing, I had to charge it by 2 PM. (It seems to lose around 1% of battery for each 90 seconds of gaming… You can feel the phone starting to really heat up in your hand as the A6 chip is banging out the processing power.) Fortunately, the thing charges up crazy fast. I don’t know if it’s the new lightning connector or what, but it goes from low to full charge in like 60 minutes.


The app store is awesome, and definitely makes the iPhone5 more of a pocket iComputer than just a phone. From controlling my home’s lights and shades (Lutron’s Home+) to my audio/video system (Control4’s MyHome) to watching satellite when I’m not home (DISH), to playing games (Simpson’s Tapped Out and Words With Friends), to finding places to eat (Yelp), to beer news (Pintley), the apps are really awesome. Recently I’ve been using an app that tracks my bike riding; it logs your route via GPS and charts your course and speed and time. Sometimes it’s the stupid-simple stuff that is cool, like a flashlight app that turns on the back LED and is perfect for looking behind audio racks. I do wish that Kaleidescape would make an iPhone version of its awesome iPad control app. Just sayin'...


A lot of negative comments have been made about the Maps program and how things are missing or rendered poorly or leading people to the wrong places or whatever else. But in my experience, the Maps has worked great. Granted, we don’t have a complex street layout like, say, New York, but when I’ve asked for directions, it has always led me to exactly where I wanted to go. The turn-by-turn has worked perfectly as well. I think for those times where you’re on-the-ground in a strange city looking to get around it will be incredibly handy. Especially since I am like the most directionally challenged person I know.


My biggest disappointment with the iPad2 is the camera quality. To say that it is horrible would be like saying that Michael Jordan was a fair ball player or that Michael Phelps was a decent swimmer. The picture quality from the iPad2 is so bad as to be considered unusable. (Oddly, it shoots great looking 720p HD video from the same camera. Go figure.) The camera on the iPhone5 is really great. Not replace your dedicated, standalone 12+ MP camera with giant lens and tons of settings, but really, really good. Good enough to the point where I think it will be my sole photography/videography tool at CES and CEDIA going forward. It seems pretty quick and responsive (though the flash is too much for close-range picture taking, often washing things out or leaving a giant glare spot) and takes very detailed pictures. The zoom also works quite well and is easy to use. FaceTime – Apple’s device-to-device video chat – also works great with the front facing camera. (Though it does put a mute button on the screen in kind of an awkward spot that Lauryn seems to press repeatedly if she’s holding the phone, though whether it is on purpose or not is a tough call...) Apple has also made it easy to get right to the camera, allowing you to jump right to it from the “lock” screen which is a cool touch.


I carried Lady Phone around for years and never once thought of putting a case or protector or anything on her. And I dropped her *plenty*. Small drops, big drops, all kinds of drops. And, sure, her back cover and battery would go flying, but she would reassemble with no harm done. I’m terrified about dropping the iPhone. It’s so “pretty” looking that even the thought of a slight scratch on the back cover gives me stabbing pains of guilt. I put a case on the phone, but it makes the phone look clunky and even then, you just feel like one drop could be disastrous.


Kind of like maps, LTE (4G cell service) is hit-and-miss depending on where you live. There are spots around Myrtle Beach where it will say LTE and it seems to be faster when I’m in an LTE zone, but I haven’t really used it enough in and out of 3G and LTE to make a good comparison. (A speed test one time did reveal 9 Meg down...) Primarily I’m on WiFi either at my home or work.

Music Player

Using the iPhone5 as a music player is similar to using the iPad, just with a lot less info on the screen at once. Since I have about 80 Gigs of music, and a 32 Gig iPad and a 16 Gig iPhone5, I didn’t bring in my entire library and transferred my selected music to the phone in lower – 128kbps – resolution. The music capabilities definitely mean that you can eliminate carrying a separate music player, which is nice. Sorry, 80 Gig Video iPod. You were a real trooper, but I think your traveling days are over. My favorite feature is being able to AirPlay things from the phone to my Marantz stereo or the CasaTunes audio system. Whether it is Songza or Pandora or my iTunes library, that is such a cool feature and honestly one of the big reasons why I wanted to stick with iOS.

Categories: October 2012, Reviews, Electronics

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Reply Sarah Fleishman
4:34 PM on October 26, 2012 
RIP LadyPhone-s, you minx you!
Reply George Tucker
8:57 AM on October 29, 2012 
While I completely missed the rise and fall of the Lady Phone saga it sounded like quite the adventurous affair and if it was as half as funny as ?Matt Scotts Hair? account I missed a good one. I do wonder if a theme song was by Pink Lady was considered at any time.

Trust me when I tell you that the craving for a real keyboard will never really go away - if you were ever a smoker you will recognize the feeling of knowing you cannot go back but the itch and dreams of doing it simply linger. This lack of tactile feedback had me hold on to my Razar V3 up until a year ago simply because it took twice as long to generate a text or tweet tap, tap, tapping at a frictionless screen. This is also the reason I have stuck with my oversized laptop rather than move to the iPad- my screen and physical keyboard are all in one package -as opposed a separate accessory. This makes one appear so very 20th century.

So unhip in fact that I became very excited about the Microsoft Surface tablet while watching the live feed on Mashable. (As a side note this appeared to be much more stable of a feed than the erratic AppleTV feed was. In the spirit of full disclosure, the company I work for - WorldStage- was responsible for the Audio, Lighting and background projections for the events). I was struck by Surface having a keypad built into the cover - despite myself I had to utter out loud that -?this is what I need!?. It is not the uber minimalist elegance of the iPad but I will take well designed utilitarianism over elegance any day with one exception.

If only MS would have a tried and true ecosystem comparable to Apple's. Beyond a Sonos system connecting my phone there does not see to be an affordable equal system for those of us invested in (or rather, stuck) in a PC infrastructure. I have a Droid phone currently only because I had a Motorola A955 with keyboard as my transition smartphone. There is a fair amount of feature envy to be had with the iPad universe but its refusal to accommodate anything but content consumption, rather than creation, keeps it as an ancillary device in my day to day world.

Speaking of Cupertino?s fascination with form over function - you are spot on sir Sciacca! While the new new earbuds may sound somewhat better than their ubiquitous predecessor they are still simply awful for playback of anything other than recordings of federal phone taps -(not that I would know anything about that). We do disagree on the over-the-ear cans to purchase. There are a host of $60-$100 headphones that are more than suitable for critical listening, my favorites are the Sony MDR-V6's I have had two pairs in 20 years and love more with each passing day. (and they may very well be the only Sony product I have any faith in anymore).

As Always, great post.
Reply The Tim Channel
2:07 PM on October 29, 2012 
I have abandoned iTunes for the most part, though the iPhone is the best piece of electronics in my lifetime, and I date back to the vacuum tube era. I pay Spotify ten euro a month and "carry" nearly the entire world catalog of music with me at all times, dedicating a gig or two of memory on my phone for offline listening (Spotify streaming off 3G can be a little iffy but I have no issues with wifi). This solitary shift means I don't have to worry about paying an extra premium for a larger capacity device just to hold more music. Enjoy.