The Macalope Daily: Radical!


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On Tuesday we went to the extreme; on Wednesday, we’re getting radical! What’s Thursday going to be? It’s like someone remade Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or something.

Mike Elgan wants you to know “Why the iPhone 5 is Too Radical” (tip o’ the antlers to Lessien).

Well, at least he’s going against the annoying, hackneyed grain that says the iPhone 5 is boring. That’s something.

Unfortunately, that’s about it.

The iPhone 5 is better than its predecessors. But it could have, and should have, been far better than it in fact is.

Do tell. Unless there’s any way we can convince you to back away from the keyboard and give up this self-destructive behavior.

No? Sigh. OK, go on, then.

For example, Apple decided to get too aggressive with both size and performance. These are laudable goals, but they didn’t quite pull it off.

Rather than improving battery life—a usability issue desperately in need of improvement—they instead kept it the same in a best-case scenario, and degraded it in the worst case.

Elgan provides no links to back up this claim, possibly because while the larger screen and more powerful processor do take their toll, the difference is just 6 percent lower than the iPhone 4S and 4 percent lower than the iPhone 4 based on Macworld’s tests. It would be nice if it were better, but the improvements in the phone come at a cost, which is why Apple, unlike other smartphone makers, waited to ship a larger screen and LTE until it could get acceptable battery life.

They also compromised on materials. Instead of the glass-backed iPhone 4S, which looked beautiful but was thick and heavy, we now get an aluminum housing, which scratches and scuffs easily and visibly—something Apple reassuringly tells us is “normal.”

Aluminum is now “radical.” Glass is “normal.”

So, we’re all apparently over “Glassgate” then? Glass is just better than aluminum, even if it shatters when dropped? OK. Glad we settled that.

Apple’s radical new Lighting adaptor, neither compatible nor standard, is actually really cool. … But while it moves charging and wired data connectivity forward, it moves usability temporarily backward. Millions of homes and hotels rooms have iPhone-compatible clock radios and other docks and accessories. Now everyone has to cope with adaptors at added hassle and expense.

That’s not usability, that’s compatibility. Being smaller and faster and able to be inserted either way, Lightning actually does move usability forward.

All Elgan has done here is display that he can, robot-like, summarily call any change, be it for better or worse, “radical.” The new ear buds? Radical! The nano-SIM card? Radical! Earphone jack on the bottom? Radical!

Bravo. Golf clap. Awesome parlor trick, dude.

It sounds like I’m complaining about the iPhone 5. I’m not.

What you’re doing is being contrarian just for the sake of contrarianism. Which is neither interesting nor illuminating.

Given Apple’s One-Phone-To-Rule-Them-All strategy, the upgrade is too radical in a bad way for everyday users.

Wait, how is that not complaining about the iPhone? It’s bad but in a good way? Buh?

Comparing the iPhone to what we imagine Apple might do is just lazy and self indulgent.

At least we agree on something.

But comparing the iPhone to other Apple lines in the context of Apple’s larger strategy makes perfect sense.

And by that comparison, the iPhone changes too much, too fast and too soon.

You can see what Elgan did here. He set out with his contrarian thesis without really caring if it made sense or not. Damn the torpedoes of logic, full steam ahead.

Taken in the context of the smartphone industry, the only single feature of the iPhone 5 that could conceivably be called radical is the Lightning connector. All the others are present in existing phones, if not all in the same phone.

The Macalope has said this before but just because you can write a piece does not necessarily mean you should write a piece. With Elgan, as with so many others, that point falls on deaf ears.

[Editors’ Note: In addition to being a mythical beast, the Macalope is not an employee of Macworld. As a result, the Macalope is always free to criticize any media organization. Even ours.]

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