The iPhone 5 was announced on September 12, 2012, ten years ago. It was the first iPhone to abandon the 30-pin Dock connector inherited from iPods because it introduced the Lightning Adapter.
It was the first reversible data connector on mobile devices, and earlier connectors – whether proprietary or USB – had “polarity”, that is, there was only one correct direction.
While this was once an advantage over phones that use microUSB, it is now seen as a downside and everyone is just waiting for Apple to adopt USB-C.
Despite its impact on the smartphone market, Apple is sometimes too slow to adopt new technology. This week we’ll look at several examples, starting with the USB-C just mentioned.
USB-C: 8 years
Well, that hasn’t happened yet, but EU legislation has made it pretty certain that Apple will switch iPhones to USB-C in 2023. The law won’t apply until 2024, but with the introduction of new iPhones late in the year, analysts expect it to happen. Transformation in 2023 with the iPhone 15 series.
Not only the EU, but the US and Brazil are considering similar laws that would make USB-C mandatory for phones (and maybe, but not necessarily, other portable electronic devices).
The first Android phones to use USB-C started coming out in 2015, which means Apple will be 8 years late to the party. The The first phone was the LeTV One Max (remember the LeTV?).
Funny how this also means that the first iPhone with USB-C will arrive 5 years after the first iPad switched away from Lightning (this was the iPad Pro from 2018). Even funnier, Apple released one of its first-ever USB-C devices, the 12-inch MacBook from 2015.
Quad Bayer Sensors: 4 Years
After several years of using 12MP cameras, Apple has finally made the leap to a higher-resolution Quad Bayer sensor. This is only for Pro models, of course, Apple has a conservative approach to adopting the new technology after all.
For years, the Nokia 808 PureView has been the phone with the highest resolution camera – 41 MP with the standard Bayer filter. Then in 2018, the Huawei P20 and Mate 20 will match 40MP sensors. At the end of 2018, Nokia was finally taken out (in terms of resolution) by the Huawei nova 4 and Honor View 20 and their 48MP cameras.
Anyway, the Huawei P20 Pro’s camera has a quad Bayer sensor – something completely new in mobile at the time – we had to do an article dedicated to explaining what it does. They allow for things like single-shot HDR (half the pixels take short exposures, the other half are long), the extra resolution allows for lossless digital zoom (as explained easily by 808), and of course, there’s always the option to apply demosaicing to reverse binning and get an image at a higher resolution .
By the way, Nokia 808 PureView was famous not only for the accuracy of the camera sensor, but also for its size. The iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max sensors are roughly the same size – 1/1.2″ for the Nokia and 1/1.28″ for the iPhone.
5G: 1.5 years
The iPhone 11 series arrived in 2019 with only a 4G LTE modem. Apple won’t jump to 5G until the iPhone 12 series in 2020. The reason behind it has nothing to do with market strategy or Apple is its usual self.
Instead, it was an annoying combination of Apple and Qualcomm having patented beef and Intel’s modem division failing to deliver. Apple eventually had to compromise with Qualcomm and is currently using Snapdragon X modems.
There were rumors that Samsung, MediaTek, and even Huawei might supply the modems, but those rumors didn’t work (Huawei even denied this was an option at all, and Samsung reportedly didn’t have modems to spare, MediaTek wanted to make it happen, anyway).
All attention is now focused on Apple’s modem division, which includes Intel’s modem business that was sold to Cupertino in 2019. Some analysts believe the modem is operational, but has been held back by patent licensing issues.
The first 5G phone was the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, which was released in early 2019. Unless you want to account for the Moto Z3, which was revealed in mid-2018 and came with optional 5G (although that was only pre-ordered). in 2019, so it doesn’t really change the math). So, Apple was 18 months late, and it felt longer because Android makers suddenly released dozens and dozens of 5G phones.
Always On Display: 6 years (minimum)
Apple pioneered LTPO display panels because it needed extra power efficiency to enable Always-On Display mode for Apple Watch Series 5 in 2019. Of course, this same feature won’t be available on iPhones until this week only – iPhone 14 Pro And the 14 Pro Max are the first (and only) in the family to own an AOD.
Back in the day, some feature phones were able to switch their LCD screens to mirrored mode, giving them a crystal clear, energy-saving mode that allows them to display time icons and notifications throughout the week. There were also weird phones like the YotaPhone, which had an e-Ink screen on the back (this was always on too, since e-Ink only uses power when updating, not when it shows a still image).
But regardless, the first Android phones to get AOD arrived in 2016 – these were the Samsung Galaxy S7 and LG G5. Back then the AOD came with a noticeable hit to battery life in standby mode, these days things are much better.
Above we rejected exotic solutions, but we think one of them is worth mentioning. The LG V10 from 2015 had a secondary screen on top of the main screen, which had its own screen driver and backlight that allowed it to stay on throughout.
Wireless charging: 8 years
As with AOD, wireless charging made its debut on Apple Watches (with the first one, in fact, in 2014), and it will take a few years before it hits iPhones. The first smartphone with wireless charging was the influential Palm Pre from 2009. The Pres has been the only real choice for a few years (with premium magnetic Touchstone chargers).
Other platforms will eventually also offer wireless options with the likes of the Nokia Lumia 920 and Nexus 4 from 2012. It took a while, but eventually everyone settled on the Qi standard (PMA It was a thing for a few years).
The iPhone 8 and X generation in 2017, the end of the classic iPhone design and the dawn of the notch, brought wireless charging support on Apple phones. Then in 2020, Apple unveiled MagSafe, which included magnets to securely hold the phone and charger (and some extra accessories like wallets). Of course, he did it from the start.
Incision: 3 months
Some of you might think that the iPhone X brought a first-class curse into this world, but they would be wrong. Well, technically wrong, the iPhone X is definitely the phone that made it famous.
But it wasn’t The The first phone to score – not one but two Android phones that outperformed it by three months. The Sharp Aquos S2 was released on August 14th and the base phone followed just days later. Both pushed their LCD screens to the top of the phone, leaving the selfie camera in a kind of peninsula, aka a notch.
The slim top bezels aren’t the only thing that lured Android makers into this design, of course. The iPhone X has abandoned the fingerprint reader and introduced 3D face scanning as a secure way to unlock the phone. Android makers have used similar technology (and related technologies such as Google’s Project Soli radar), but quickly returned to fingerprint readers.
Of course, these days that means an under-display fingerprint reader for many above-entry-level phones. This is the technology that Apple has refused to adopt so far, despite the many rumors about it. Maybe one day.
We think this is a good place to leave things for the day. There’s a lot we haven’t covered — after we mentioned the fingerprint reader, the technology predates the iPhone 5s. However, this was the first phone that made the FP reader work fine, because previous attempts (mentioned in this post) were not correct.
There is more ground to cover, things like water resistance, auto focus on the selfie camera etc. And the “dynamic island,” a loophole with better marketing. If there is enough interest, we can do part 2.