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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

September 12, 2012 at 11:18 AM

Apple iPhone 5: Looks fine, love the new iPods

Now we know why Apple’s so fanatical about secrecy.

If one of its new gadgets isn’t truly extraordinary or revolutionary, the surprise and drama of the launch is enough to carry people away.

ip5.jpg

If the details leak out early — as they did in recent weeks with the iPhone 5 — and the element of surprise is gone, it’s harder to position the new gadget as some kind of breakthrough. Especially if it’s not really a breakthrough.

That’s what today’s iPhone launch feels like from afar. It’s also partly why the new iPods announced simultaneously seem more exciting.

The iPhone 5 looks like a nice phone and a great option for people shopping for a new smartphone this fall. Especially welcome is the use of three microphones to improve voice quality and the belated addition of LTE wireless technology.

But the big surprise today is that Apple is revitalizing the iPod line with terrific looking new iPod nano and iPod touch models. The credit-card sized nano (below) gets a bigger, more useful 2.5-inch screen and starts at $149. The touch (bottom image) gets a better camera, Siri voice commands, a rainbow of case colors, a wrist strap and a more powerful processor, starting at $299 for the new models with 32 gigabytes of memory.

iPod_nano_BLU_wPods_PRINT.jpg

Revolutionary or not, the iPhone 5 is still benefiting from the Apple hype machine, which is generating exuberant coverage by journalists who adore their iPhones and the clicks that Apple stories bring to their websites.

Millions of iPhone 5s will be sold before Microsoft gets Windows Phone 8 out the door.

Those buyers won’t mind that Apple is late to the party with some of the iPhone 5’s marquee features — LTE wireless, a better camera and bigger, high-resolution screen. They may not even get too worked up about having to buy new accessories or an adapter ($29 to $39 from Apple) because Apple changed the phone’s connector design.

Apple investors are still counting on the stock to reach $700, even though the iPhone faces tougher competition from other thin, premium phones with terrific screens, advanced cameras and the latest wireless technology, such as the Samsung Galaxy S III and Nokia Lumia 920.

The new phones’ upfront prices are $199 to $399, with 16 to 64 gigabytes of storage. That’s with a two-year contract that will probably end up costing $2,000 or more over the contract.

If you’re in the Seattle area, keep in mind that the iPhone 5 LTE capability isn’t yet available on AT&T. The carrier is still rolling out its LTE network and plans to have it live in Seattle by the end of the year, but won’t provide a more specific date.

Sprint is also still in the process of rolling out its LTE network in the Northwest.

Perhaps AT&T and Sprint customers buying the iPhone 5 can use the current lack of LTE as leverage, when trying to negotiate their way out paying upgrade fees if their current phones are still under contract. They shouldn’t get docked for an upgrade to a network that they can’t use yet.

iPod_touch_PF_Horiz_BLU_Loop_Camera__PRINT.jpg

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