Why I don’t regret not waiting for the iPhone 5


This interview with Delimiter editor + publisher Renai LeMay was conducted by comparison site WhistleOut as a joint exercise between the two sites associated with the launch this morning of Apple’s iPhone 5 smartphone. For background reading, see Renai’s article in June on dumping his iPhone 4 for a HTC One XL.

Renai, since you’ve publicly switched to the HTC One XL on Telstra away from an iPhone, there’s been two key phone releases since (including the iPhone) which could have pushed you to question your decision. Firstly, you reviewed a manufacturer’s version of the HTC One XL on Delimiter before making up your mind to switch. How important was the hands on experience vs. HTC’s marketing materials in switching?

The hands-on experience was critical in making the decision to switch personally from my iPhone 4 to a HTC One XL. I had been holding off on switching to Android for several years, because although a lot of my friends and readers were using Android, every time I reviewed or played with an Android smartphone, the user interface experience did not feel as mature as it needed to be to make the switch.

With the release of Ice Cream Sandwich (version 4.0 of Android), a lot changed. At the same time, carriers such as Telstra and Optus were starting to bring 4G networks to market, which I knew would deliver a step change in terms of the speed of smartphone network access. Being able to have a hands-on experience with the One XL before I decided to switch confirmed these two key factors for me: That Android was mature and that 4G was everything it was cracked up to be. HTC’s excellent build quality sealed the deal.

With that in mind, how can someone actually make up their mind from a spec sheet and some marketing materials considering how impactful the hands on experience was? Does Apple have a killer advantage here that with our millions of iPhone users in Australia at a BBQs demoing their phones to their friends that this hands on demo will breed more iPhone users? Is that why my mum wants an iPhone?

I think it is definitely possible to make up your mind about which smartphone to buy without actually playing with one first, especially if you are familiar with previous smartphones in that manufacturer’s history. If you’ve had an iPhone before, you broadly know what you’re getting with the new iPhone 5, for example, and the same can be said of Samsung, HTC and Nokia. Online video reviews are also great these days. But I always recommend playing with your future purchase first with demo models in-store.

There are a lot of iPhone users in Australia, but arguably the iPhone line doesn’t perform as well in the hand as competing models from Samsung, HTC and Nokia at the moment. iOS doesn’t have the dynamic backgrounds of Android which delivers such a vibrant user experience to many Android phones, for example, and the iPhone doesn’t have the large 4.7″ or 4.8″ touchscreens which are attracting so many people at the moment. In addition, iOS is a much less fluid user interface than Windows Phone 7, and Nokia’s new Lumia line is eye-catching for its colour and beautiful build materials.

In comparison, where iOS shines is that it’s just much more functional than either Android or Windows Phone 7. Most people buying a smartphone for the first time are going to buy an iPhone, because it’s kind of the default in this way — you learn iOS first, and then a lot of people switch to operating systems such as Android and (to a lesser extent) Windows Phone 7 as they want more choice in handset design and are willing to put up with operating system trade-offs such as not having all third-party applications available and so on.

In short, yes, existing iPhone users are great evangelists for the iPhone to non-smartphone users. But Android and to a smaller extent Windows Phone 7 users are also currently cannibalising the iPhone base, and some of these models have much greater immediate physical appeal than the iPhone.

How is your HTC One XL going now that you’ve been using it everyday for the past few months?

I am still enjoying it a great deal, but like any gadget there are positives and negatives associated with it.

On the positive side, I continue to love the One XL’s large 4.7″ screen size. It’s big, vibrant and I have a dynamic background set, which can be mesmerising to watch. It makes my old iPhone 4 look tiny. In addition, I love the customisability of Android, as well as just having basic features available such as copying files to my phone via USB — something which Apple was never able to quite master on the iPhone. I feel “free” in that I don’t have to do everything on my phone the way Apple wants me to any more. I get more choice in everything. Plus, the One XL’s Beats Audio feature is great, and I love consuming multimedia on it. HTC’s build quality is also awesome, and it’s normal for me to flip the One XL around in my hands, idly fondling and enjoying it as I talk to someone over coffee.

On the downside, there’s battery life. If I’m going out for an extended period (say, working out of the office for a day and then out for drinks after work), I know that I have to carefully ration my One XL’s battery life over that period, keeping it charged through my laptop. Sometimes I still take my iPhone 4 as a backup (it has a prepaid 3G data SIM in it) in case my One XL runs out of juice. This is the single biggest problem with the One XL, and one I hope HTC focuses on for its next line of smartphones.

In addition, sometimes Android is just weird. Opening PDFs from emails sometimes crashes the PDF app, the way Google Play handles eBooks can be asinine (what the hell is “cloud reading”, for example — why don’t eBooks just download to your device by default?), and third-party app support is inferior to that of iOS. Music recognition app Shazam, for example, just never seems to recognise songs on my One XL, whereas it works fine on my iPhone. Android can be messy at times. And it really annoys me that Android users don’t get updates such as Jelly Bean instantly … we have to wait months for manufacturer and carrier approval.

Looking at the new iPhone 5 today with 4G, do you feel any HTC buyer’s remorse?

None. On paper, the iPhone 5 is really just a lighter and slimmer iPhone 4S with a slightly longer screen, 4G speeds and some other minor specification upgrades. Apart from battery life, it offers me nothing that I don’t already have on the One XL. I think the iPhone 5 is likely a better overall model than the One XL, especially considering its battery life, but I don’t regret buying the One XL when I did. It was a good time to switch to Android and I love the 4G speeds.

Is there anything that you were / were not expecting with iPhone 5 launch?

This morning’s iPhone 5 launch basically delivered what the US technology press had already reported. In this sense nothing was really a surprise. I am pleased with the confirmation that the iPhone 5 supports 4G speeds in Australia, but again, not surprised. It would have been a major issue for Apple if this support wasn’t included.

You’ve also reviewed the Galaxy S3 which is now being upgraded to a 4G version. Now that they will be as fast as each other, how does the Galaxy S3 stack up in your mind against the HTC One XL?

I haven’t reviewed the 4G version of the Galaxy S III yet, so I don’t have a completely informed opinion on this model. However, the 3G version of the Galaxy S III is a better phone than the One XL in a range of areas, from software to hardware. I think it is likely that the 4G version of the Galaxy S III and the new iPhone 5 will for the next six months or so share the title of the best smartphone in Australia. The One XL, at this point, looks like a pretty close third, behind those two.

I’ve seen many photos of road warrior’s mobile kits laid out on coffee tables and snapped for their Instagram feed (most often containing an iPhone 4S, iPad 3 or Macbook Air and a Telstra 4G dongle). If you were building your mobile computing tech arsenal from scratch next month, what would it look like?

MacBook Air (11″ or 13″, depending on how much time you spend out of the office) for computing needs. 4G Samsung Galaxy S III through Telstra as primary mobile phone and 4G mobile broadband tethering device. Apple iPhone 5 through Optus as backup connection. Kindle Paperwhite for eBook reading in direct sunlight. Not too different from what I have now ;)

Notice how there’s no Vodafone in this list? Yeah.

There’s so been so much speculation in past months about what the iPhone 5 might or might not actually look like, with sites creating fake mock ups and every other type of fantasy but it is all redundant today. I know that many people say this is free publicity for Apple, but Apple are on record as saying that this actually hurts the sales of their current products, especially so in the last quarter and likely again in this quarter. Do you think that tech journos are right to be writing about the iPhone all the time or should they be covering other stuff considering all the speculation is immediately neutered on release day each year?

There are a certain number of US-based core tech publications, such as The Verge and Engadget, that rightfully specialise in sifting the Apple rumours and working out what is likely to be true and what is likely to be inaccurate. I support these guys working on this issue and continuing to provide forward information with respect to Apple launches.

This is important, because unlike other manufacturers, Apple does not provide forward visibility on its products. It’s not fair that consumers could buy an iPhone 4S one week, for example, then have Apple suddenly launch a new iPhone 5 the next week. Because of this, the role of these core tech publications is important in giving consumers certainty that their new purchase is not going to be outdated in a month.

However, the overwhelming majority of Apple coverage is not of this nature — it’s hype aimed at generating page impressions. Many of these writers would find, as I have on Delimiter, that focusing on other topics can be more useful in the long term.

I’m interested to know your opinion on what we should do with our old iPhone 4 as people inevitably upgrade? These phones are rumoured to be more powerful than the computers that were on Apollo 11. Mark Zuckerberg has revealed he wrote one of the most important company documents for Facebook’s IPO on an iPhone. We told our bosses that we had to have one for productivity’s sake. Should we not be giving our old iPhones to the 3rd world children so that they get access to this technology? Can an iPhone get you out of poverty or help you learn?

I haven’t seen any evidence that it’s very useful sending these devices to third-world countries, but if someone showed me evidence that it was useful, I would support doing this. Without this kind of evidence, I think many old iPhones and old Android phones best end up going to relatives and friends who are slower adopters. They get recycled in this manner.

Beyond this, it’s also true that mobile phones are increasingly becoming disposable and commoditised technology, which we use for several years and then throw away. We see this trend with all technology in the long term. We need good materials recycling plants to handle this.

And lastly, a game of ‘Desert Island Phone’ which deserves an honest answer please. You’re on a desert island, but you’ve got a power connection so battery is no issue, you’ve got a strong 4G LTE connection with unlimited data that can receive but you can’t send info to get rescued. You’re going to be on this island for the next 5 years. Which phone do you choose to be stuck with? iPhone 5, HTC One XL or Galaxy S3 4G?

Galaxy S III 4G for the win!

From a device standpoint as well, the Galaxy S III 4G has a much larger screen than the iPhone, and its ‘pebble blue’ colour scheme is the only one which would match well with the desert island aesthetic. Plus, the fact that it has a microSD card slot means I could add on a bunch more storage and extra data to take with me. The Galaxy S III 4G is likely to be a better overall model than the One XL.

In addition, I have been a long-term supporter and user of open source operating systems such as Linux and open standards platforms such as the world wide web. While Apple’s walled garden is nice for those who want their information experience controlled in Steve Jobs’ comfortable reality distortion zone, Android represents a much more open long-term future, and one I would much rather invest in. It’s just more interesting being an Android user than an iPhone user. I don’t always think like Steve does — sometimes I want to ‘Think Different’ — and the iPhone is not conducive to this. It imposes its experience on you — whereas as an Android user, I get to control the experience for myself.

Image credit: Apple


  1. After this morning’s announcement, my iPhone 4 will have been my first and last iPhone. I was a late adopter to the iPhone, as i liked being able to customise my HTC (running Windows Mobile). Now Android is a far more mature OS, my next phone will most certainly be the Galaxy S III 4G.

  2. …and my next mobile will most certainly be an iPhone 5. It will be my third iPhone and being a Mac user since 1987 it won’t be the last. Why? Because Apple OS in all its past, present and future forms is why.

    All you PC/Windows/Microsoft users will no doubt drift back to a Windows/Android platform-sorry to see you go…

    • “It will be my third iPhone and being a Mac user since 1987 it won’t be the last”

      Good on you for going with what you like, but nothing identifies a fanboy/girl more than committing to buy the next device from your favourite manufacturer a year before it’s even announced.

  3. Don’t forget; that on your desert-island Android you will be able to write your own apps (AIDE from google play)!
    So even if there was a storm that knocked out 4g for a while you could still customise your phone even more.

    Though honestly; typing on a smartphone hurts my brain. (and for some reason the Android soft-keyboard isn’t as good as the Apple one, I still haven’t figured out why).

    (I have a OneXL)

    • typing on a smartphone hurts my brain. (and for some reason the Android soft-keyboard isn’t as good as the Apple one, I still haven’t figured out why).

      Agree with both points, but at least on Android you have the option of installing third-party keyboards. I have SwiftKey and it’s brilliant, better than the iPhone keyboard IMO. But I still avoid typing on it as much as possible.

  4. Renai,
    Have you tried using your OneXL for a few days with the dynamic backgrounds turned off? I’ve been using static wallpaper ever since I got my (original) Desire, as it was flagged as a significant addition to phone power consumption. Two and a half years on, with the original battery, and I rarely get close to a flat battery at the end of a long day out.

  5. A good read. It would be interesting to revisit this topic after you’ve had a chance to review the Lumia 920 and other WP8 devices in a few months.

  6. Apple’s launch was thoroughly disappointing from a point of view that they claim they invented everything, and later not standing tall on the same claims. They have only provided for a limited evolutionary update this time around which is extremely disappointing for a brand like Apple’s.

    They would have ideally gotten a market sympathy on this one, however, not this time around thanks to the patent bullying they have been doing around for long now.

    I believe if they would just have continued to play a strong in the market, it would have made more sense to them. Protecting some of their IP, which shouldn’t have been IP at all, seemed like a terrible idea.

    However, it is commendable that Apple has been able to create a very coherent ecosystem (some might call it closed) which surely enhances the average user’s experience by notches. Something that Android haven’t been able to do so far. It is also noteworthy that MS will trying really hard to create that coherence and most hopefully they will do so successfully. What remains to be seen is how Apple will react to MS, more than Android, especially since MS will be on other personal computing platforms at home and office.

    HTC has already sued Apple on use of LTE patents, which could lead to some shocks for Apple. And Samsung is reportedly suing Apple over the same too. If both of these win their way, it could lead to some very interesting times in the Smartphone space. However, most bets are on a cross licensing outcome.

  7. Please try the upcoming stunning Nokia Lumia 920 and let us know how it compares. It appears to have the best screen, best camera, amazing new operating system, NFC, wireless charging… I think the kitchen sink is in there somewhere too…

    • +1

      I’m seriously considering dropping my XL if the Lumia 920 is all It’s hype proves to be true. Especially NFC wallet and PureView…

    • +1

      I was seriously impressed by the 920.
      I just wish they wouldn’t market it in Mustard yellow and Ketchup red, the black and grey looks really good.

  8. Well at this stage I think I’ll be buying an iPhone 5 , if performance and battery life is as good as I’m expecting from reviews anyway.

    It’s amazing how accurate the leaks have been this year, with practically every hardware component and feature outed before the official announcement. Even the A6 chip was leaked online 3 hours before the keynote began! Apple’s presentation ended up being more a confirmation of what we already knew with a few nice surprises thrown in. Pretty similar to the iPhone 4 launch in that sense.

    Anyway, the iPhone 5 has most of the things I was hoping for, with a few bonuses I wasn’t expecting like wideband audio for “HD” voice calling (I think Telstra offers this for compatible handsets don’t they? ) and of course 1800Mhz LTE support (You were right Renai! My apologies for doubting your wisdom! :-) ).

    I don’t expect a revolution with my phone every year, like some people seem to, just substantial updates to specs and features each year and a fresh new design every 24 months (while still retaining the iPhone look) which Apple have achieved beautifully with the iPhone 5. It really does look like it’s exceptionally well built and I love the unibody design and 16×9 screen with no increase to width of the phone. The new thinness makes it look cool, but to be honest I’d rather it had remained a bit thicker with a larger battery instead. Having said that they are claiming the same battery life as the 4S which should be enough to get through a full day at least.

    I too looked closely at The HTC X as a possible replacement to my aging iPhone 4, as it has a stunning Super-LCD IPS screen (I hate pentile S-AMOLED screens so this was a big deal to me) and I also like its build quality and style (probably the first Android phone I can honestly say that about) . However I still ended up being turned away because of Sense. Not only do I really dislike HTC’s skinning (with all that power under the hood it still makes ICS lag intermittently) but also because as you mentioned in the article you’ll be at the mercy of HTC and Telstra as to when you get OS updates. After coming from an iPhone where you update your OS on the day of release, and know you’ll get software upgrades for at at least 24 months, this would really annoy me waiting months with uncertainty for my carrier to roll out the update. I’d go hunting for a custom ROM straight away instead.

    I wish just one manufacturer would concentrate on differentiating their Android phone via top end hardware design and features, like a brilliant camera such as that on the Nokia 920 (which is a perfect example of an innovative and beautifully designed phone) and leave the software side of things alone, sticking to vanilla Android? (I’m obviously keeping Google’s Nexus phones out of the story here).

    It seems to me that manufacturer and carrier efforts to differentiate and improve on the user experience with all their widgets, skinning, tweaks and custom apps, actually take away from all the hard work Matias Duarte put into designing an aestheically pleasing and consistent experience on ICS (and even more so with project butter for Jellybean). Not to mention they hold the Android ecosystem back. Case in point: Jelly Bean is only on about 1.2 percent of Android devices. Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich has now topped 20 percent, but most devices – 57.5 percent – are still running Gingerbread.

    I really do like Android, but because of the issues mentioned, I would only consider an official Nexus phone. I believe we’re about due for a new one too (October maybe?). The thing is if Samsung makes it, its almost certainly going to be pentile and plastic, and to keep costs down it might have an average camera again.

    This is all just my opinion of course. I’m sure some people love skins and Sense, but to me it just doesn’t make any (sense). Time for another iPhone :)

  9. Never discuss politics or religion in polite company. Probably add to that choice of mobile phone platform. :-)

    You mention ” It’s not fair that consumers could buy an iPhone 4S one week, for example, then have Apple suddenly launch a new iPhone 5 the next week.

    Since 2007 it’s been fairly consistent, new iphone roughly once a year. If the consumer hasn’t cottoned on to that by now, well…. With Android phones, it seems every few months there’s a new phone out, and even within makers they are regularly replacing phones. Given that I get a two year contract (like most people) I’d be annoyed if my shiny newness was out of date in 6months or less.

    Don’t forget the return policy is you can return it within 14 days for a full refund (and then get a new iPhone ;-) ) if you did get an iphone4 last week

    At the moment I have an iphone4 and I actually have no issue with it, simply the fact that I’m about to come off contract means its a good time to upgrade. I’ll be getting an iPhone 5, because of the apps I have, some would call that lock in but for me, it does what I want – I have found apps that meet all of my needs and they all work well. Switching now would mean having to find replacements for a lot of them, and an inconvenience.

    Some would call me an Apple fanboy (or worse still, “fanboi” – I mean seriously???), yet at least my observation has been that the “fandroids” are more vocal in condemning iPhone owners, derogatory terms like isheep and so on. Dude – it’s just a phone.

    • “Some would call me an Apple fanboy (or worse still, “fanboi” – I mean seriously???), yet at least my observation has been that the “fandroids” are more vocal in condemning iPhone owners, derogatory terms like isheep and so on. Dude – it’s just a phone.”

      This. A million times this.

      I can’t stand people that rant and rave about other people’s phone choices.
      If you like it, then get it.

      • Yep I’d agree with that too. It’s an uphill battle on every tech site, wading through the Android fanatics that have some kind of seething rage for Apple just becuase it’s a closed sandboxed OS or they have a stereotypical view that all Mac users must be ignorant hipsters or something. Which means approximately zilch to iOS’s hundreds of millions of happy users. And to the rarer ones like me that a closed OS does mean something to, as explained, we jailbreak, and can ultimately have an experience on par or better than Android.

        • “all Mac users must be ignorant hipsters or something”

          Ah yes – my other pet peeve

          I work at a small IT company doing SOA and we went all Mac a few years ago. Our software is Java based so we have no need to run Windows, one of the developers got himself a MacBook before BYOD was an acronym, then the boss got one and we all soon went over. It has the advantage being Unix based, but you also have MS Office (unlike Linux) when you need to share those files with clients. After 5 years now I couldn’t imagine going back – its bad enough having to fire up Windows in a VM to test something.

          BTW – all our servers run Linux, we aren’t adverse to it.

          Yet – as soon as you mention you use a Mac its assumed you’re a hipster and work in design, or arts, or something similar, that you’re ignorant and an iSheep. If I mention I work in IT, they assume its “web design” or something similar. Mention you also have an iPhone and its game on – iSheep, iDrone, hang cuffed in the Jobs walled garden, clueless ignorant slave to the latest shiny iDevice. Blah Blah Blah.

          • “all Mac users must be ignorant hipsters or something”

            That’s a badge I’ll wear with pride…

          • Good on you. Just as Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones would say:

            “Let me give you some advice, bastard: never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.” :)

  10. Call me nuts or whatever, but I’ve never had that “must have” feeling fom an Android phone. You know, that feeling that you just want to keep using, playing, exploring with the thing.

    I got that the first time with an iPhone and haven’t looked back. And if the only objective advantage to another handset can be measured in fractional differences in pixels or millimeters, then why should it matter to me?

    But I do support, and enthusiastically so, a vibrant and diverse market; and for that reason I want both Android and Windows 8 to succeed as platforms. That makes everyone sharper at their game, which makes better results all round.

    • Totally agree Gwyntaglaw.

      We seem to be living in times when if somethings a breakthrough success then it’s necessary to tear it down. How many Blackberry users are there out there now? Gone to iPhones everywhere and now maybe Androids too because of the OS…

  11. I have the HTC One XL, I am also looking at another phone for my partner to replace her HTC Desire ( I replaced mine with the XL). The battery issue wit the XL – I have largely solved (as I did with the Desire) with the Juice Defender Ultimate app, some tweaking and I get 2 days with normal use (4G & WiFi browsing 2 hours+ 5 min of calls+standby) out of it , and I am happy with the XL.
    At this point I would like to see some real figures on the Samsung Galaxy s3 4G, as I have had experience with Samsung before (Omnia 2), and was not impressed with many things. The Desire’s main issue is the small internal memory for apps. Apple iPhone 5 is out, not getting locked into their walled garden (I have an iPod, and hate this aspect).

    Looking forward to a review of the Samsung Galaxy S3 4G, and give Juice Defender a go.

  12. meh, I hated Android especially after being forced by my corporate overlords to restore my company supplied HTC Sensation to “factory supported spec” (v2.3) so I went and bought my own iPhone 4s a couple of months ago.

    ICS was nice (via ARHD) but I still found that droid lacked the polish and consistency of iOS and it really irritated me – Im a geek but I want my modern Tech gear to just work and work really nicely. I save my hacking about for my Amiga 500 and Commodore 64 and other bits of retro HW.

    That said Im glad Apple has competition even if it does result in a bunch of lame ass fan-bois crowing about “how cool it is to be able to mod my phone and wow its screen is almost 5 inches across”! If it bloody worked properly in the first place you wouldnt have to invest hours of time stripping shitty carrier/oem bloatware and installing 400 different widgets to tweak all your settings and finding that several of your fav apps wont install from the play store because your handset is still unsupported due to it almost being a tablet with phone features!!!


  13. I switched from my iPhone 4 a few weeks ago to the HTC One XL and it’s been a pretty bumpy ride. Android is great in some ways, such as the customisation options, and the way I can use widgets, but iPhone is so cohesive that I really miss it. The apps on the IPhone seem to work more reliably.

    When I get a call while listening to music the player just stalls and I need to restart the app.
    The SMS app crashes, it restarts randomly, and the battery life is very poor. I have had to buy chargers for the car and office. It got better when I started using the juice defender app, but seriously, this is stuff that I never had to worry about with an iPhone.

    After all that said, I love the screen and the way that I can go from one app to another seamlessly. If Android could just improve the reliability of the software i’d be really happy.

    • Hey Nick,
      I did the same switch as you did when the One XL first came out.
      I love the big bright screen, but the Android OS really seems to lack the polish of iphone. Can’t believe that HTC still don’t even have Sync software for Macs!
      Parts of me miss using my iphone (it died), but the iphone 5 looks seriously disappointing.

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