The iPhone Illusion

It turns out that the iPhone 5’s apps processor is made on the same 32nm process at Samsung as the apps processor in the iPhone 4S.

So, apart from the bigger screen – up from 3.5″ to 4″ – what is making people buy this thing?

Clearly it’s not for the change from Google maps to Apple maps which have become a global joke.


Nor is it for the change in the connector socket which is seen globally as an act of arrogant disdain towards users.


Nor is it because of reforms at Foxconn, the Chinese assmblers of the iPhone. Almost unbelievably, it is revealed out that new recruits to Foxconn had been asked to sign a contract promising they would not kill themselves. The practice has been discontinued. 


Yet shops in my local High Street have signs outside saying ‘iPhone 5 sold out’. The news stories say five million phones were sold over the weekend, though it’s said analysts had expected ten million.


And there are pictures in the papers of queues outside shops. Whether these are out of work actors paid to queue for the pictures, or speculators buying for a quick resale, or people queuing up to buy phones for other people or genuine purchasers is unknown.



Despite it all, we are being led to believe the iPhone’s a great success.


IMHO iPad 3 was the first sign Apple was losing its way.


Thicker, heavier, hotter with a shorter battery life than the iPad 2, the iPad 3 seemed counter-intuitive.


And it also seemed unnecessary, coming within a year of the launch of the iPad 2.


A boring-looking, samey iPhone 5 coupled with cock-ups over the maps and socket is a second sign that Apple is losing its way.


Pro tem, of course, Apple’s shares and revenues are still sky-high; its $120 billion cash pile still growing.


But maybe it’s just the dogs still barking after the caravan has moved on.



  1. My daughter just got the iPhone 5 yesterday. The phone feels cheap compared to the iPhone4 and while it does seem quite a bit faster than the 4S, I am not impressed with this phone at all. I agree that the Galaxy SIII is a step ahead. Those who are buying the iPhone 5 are like Zombies, just following the rest of the crowd that’s hooked on the Apple culture. They’re the ones that upgrade each time a new iPhone comes out whether it is truly any better or not.

  2. facinorious, love it!

  3. Apple computers are doing OK it seems, if our company are anything to go by. We’ve almost all switched to MacBooks from PC laptops, as basically under the hood the OS is so Linux-like that we can develop software on the Mac that we sell on Linux far more easily then we ever could on Windows.
    And the macbooks are incredibly fast (especially if you get the SSD ones).
    As for the iPhone 5, I think I’ll stick with my iPhone 4. Number 1 reason: the docking port has changed, so I can’t use the new phone in my TomTom cradle in the car for satnav, or in the Sony clock/radio by the bedside. Stupid move, Apple.

  4. it’s all smoke and mirrors….its a terrible phone to use as a phone, but thats just me shwoing my age. If Nokia had launched a Map App like Apple did they’d of been hung-drawn and qtrd but Apple just shrug and the buying public goes on buying. FOC is not only having staff sign a no suicide agreement but theyve had nets fitted on all bldgs. The more FOC build for Apple the bigger loss they make. Even now the PRC govt is paying a RMB200.00 subside to each FOC employee. Why???? for all there clever words this is a company that only cares about cash and share prices. People and the Environment take a poor 2nd place to any other consideration. With out the slick marketing and aspirational image of there product they’d be in the same boat as Nokia. Whatever happend to Apple computers? long forgotten about, losing share compared to sevral years ago and sidelined by the iphone / ipad. Fortunately I see a company putting themselves in a corner from which they wont be able to recover when the next technology step-change occurs….and we’ll all be better off for it.

  5. Personally, sittingdown, I think Galaxy S2 & 3 are better for design and features, and Nokia better for RF engineering. As a cult iPhone wins hands down over everything – no question about that.

  6. No one’s said that to my knowledge, ikb, but the regular ‘upgrades’ imply generational improvement IMHO.

  7. Facinorous is derived from Latin facinor (bad deed) and facere (to make). The comment on the iPhone 5 was too pessimistic and somewhat unobjective. I don’t have one but it is the best phone for engineering and design as well as a cult.

  8. There was a straw man lurking in your article. Who ever said anyone should feel the need to upgrade with every iteration of the iPhone? All Apple have to do is maintain the iPhone in its position of best phone available at the time. Whether Apple have managed to do that is a topic too hot for me to handle.

  9. Crikey facinorous The Baron what a wonderful word. Totally new to me but I will be using it very soon. Thanks

  10. “I do have an iPhone, the original 3G … But at the risk of being regarded as a pleb by friends … I see no logical reason to change it.”
    I’ve got a Sony-Ericsson W810i my wife gave me for Xmas about 6 years ago. It makes calls, sends texts, can find the odd address or phone number via WAP in an emergency. As added bonuses, it lasts for days on a charge (having got a new battery recently) and isn’t like trying to fit an A5 envelope into my trouser pocket. Oh, and the camera module is brilliant (confirmed by co-workers who are ex-ST imaging division). I see utterly no reason to change.
    So the bottom line is: don’t worry, David, only Tory politicians call the public plebs, and – at the risk of committing facinorous public immodesty here – you’re in good company.
    The Baron

  11. I think you’re absolutely right [Anonymous] I think Samsung have already won this particular battle which is why Apple is resorting to the courts – the last refuge of the defeated.

  12. Samsung rolls out new phone at a pace that is difficult to follow by any other phone maker. Same strategy Samsung employs in other markets.
    Compare Samsung s3 data plan against apple data plan offer by most telcos, you can get s3 at a much lower price. At some point in the near future, it will be very difficult to justify going for an iPhone.

  13. Ah Yes, Anonymous, the Retina Display. A genius name. I tried to figure out if it was better than iPad 2. Couldn’t really see it. But I didn’t look at diagrams on it.

  14. You forgot about the hi-res screen on the iPad 3. A very good reason to purchase if you are into reading text/diagrams.

  15. Very wise words, Glenn, particularly about the innovation coming at the start of a product cycle. The first iPod with about 1000 song store coupled with iTunes came as a revelation about what MP3s could do. And the first iPhone’s touch-screen, Apps store and ease of use changed the mobile phone world. IMHO they’ved pretty much made the same phone over and over again through each generation (with the additions of 3g and LTE of course).

  16. Understandably in a tech orientated forum, that’s the aspect we’re focusing on. But Apple sales have less to do with technology and engineering, and much more to do with marketing and branding. The fact the iPhone5 demand is ridiculously high owes little to the devices new features – because as we know these are relatively few.
    My long standing belief is that Apple products are good (and in some, often earlier, guises; innovative). The near genius lies in the business model, in terms of generating streams of continued revenue from very little investment. But I also believe the model constrains, manipulates and restricts it’s customers in a near unprecedented commercial manner. I for one will never purchase Apple in any guise.
    Of course outside the engineering and business world we could look at what the Apple phenomenon implies about us as a modern people and society. Apple have barely run an ad campaign to tell us we want the iPhone5, nobody can really point to the added value they’re buying, and yet the demand exceeds considerable supply because the masses have decreed it’s the thing we must all be seen with. I only hope we come to our senses – but if we do Apple could be in trouble!

  17. Unless it is covered in scratches! Robert

  18. Ahhh, could it be as simple as the iPhone5 is something new scarce and worth buying just so you have something in your pocket when it comes time for Monday morning office show-n-tell?

  19. You may well be right, Scunnerous, though I was under the impression that the 4S transitioned from 45nm to 32nm. Maybe I am wrong.

  20. Thanks Gary, my understanding was that the 4S started with a 45nm A5 but later on used the 32nm version.

  21. So did Apple sneak the A5 32nm into the iPhone 4S in the Spring updates or not? I’ve seen speculation that this would be the case but can find no confirmation from a teardown, which would mean that the iPhone 4S still has a 45nm A5 and that the A5 32nm has been limited to the Ipad 2,4, the iPod Gen5 and, in single-core form, the TV.
    As I understand it the A6 is Apple’s first in-house custom ARM implementation so that’s a big step in itself… and credited with the improved response, along with the reworked 3-core graphics. So this is a complete rework of the Ax Series CPUs and I think they’re due some credit – progress is being made with the first high volume 32nm chip, after wetting their feet with the 32nm on the A5 at lower volumes.
    Presumably the A5X in the iPAD Gen3 will be next for the 45-32nm transition.

  22. Small correction, the A6 in the iphone 5 is not made on the same process as the A5 in the 4S. The A5 (iphone 4S) is made on Samsung 45nm process, the A6 is made on Samsung 32nm. Apple did make a shrink of the A5 (vers 2) on 32nm but to-date it has only been found in the Apple TV and ipad 2.

  23. Yes. If those improvements are significant, then they completely answer the question why people are buying it. Thank you, Steve.

  24. I’m confused about your assertion regarding how the A6 can’t be a reason for people to want the phone.
    Surely you don’t mean to say that the average consumer compares feature sizes, so you must be asserting that it’s no faster than the A5x while consuming the same or more power.
    Anandtech’s benchmarks ( show a pretty large improvement over the the A5x, and I think I recall seeing favorable battery reviews as well.
    So, I think the reason people want it is the improved speed, screen, and battery life. Those are pretty big features on phones these days, no?

  25. Thanks for that, DontAgree, and as you so rightly say the best reason to upgrade is LTE. For the UK that will be sometime off I expect despite Everything Everywhere’s stated intentions to deploy this year. As the 3G experience shows, deployment is likely to be spotty and only where it is needed to relieve congestion and in some areas, non-existent. I do have an iPhone, the original 3G and it’s the nicest and most usefulpiece of technology I ‘ve ever owned. But at the risk of being regarded as a pleb by friends with iPhone 4s and 4Ss, and 5s, not to mention those with GalaxyS2s and 3s, I see no logical reason to change it. When LTE is delivering real, and reasonably widespread, benefits that’s when I intend to upgrade.

  26. Dear Mr. Manners,
    You seem to be rather negative today. Yes you are right about all those bad things, however you fail to note the things that did get better and are sufficient reason for loyal customers to upgrade.
    – LTE speed (the biggest problem holding back iphone4)
    – processor speed (even if it is the same process)
    And then of course there is the bigger screen you did mention.
    And the maps thing that will get resolved and in a year from now just be all but forgotten.
    P.S. I do not own any iPhone or iPad, but pretty much everybody I know does.

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