Apple’s iPhone 5 pre-orders sold out; plus a look at the phone’s pros and cons

September 14, 2012

Apple opened online pre-orders for its iPhone 5 at 3:01 a.m. Eastern on Friday — and sold out within an hour.

Take a peek at Apple’s Web site now, and you’ll see that shipping estimates for the newest iPhone now say “two weeks.” But there were still some opportunities for snatching an earlier ship date. As of 10 a.m., AT&T, Verizon and Sprint were still giving pre-order shipping estimates of Sept. 21, at least for the Washington area.

The iconic smartphone has been redesigned with a series of small changes that are supposed to add up to a new gadget that feels familiar but evolved. Apple has changed the back of the phone to an aluminum plate flanked by glass panels. The phone is also 18 percent thinner and 20 percent lighter.

The sell-out is fairly impressive, as Reuters noted that this is the largest, fastest iPhone rollout in the company’s history. Apple shares opened at a record high Friday at $689.96 per share, and kept soaring, hitting $694 by 3 p.m.

The company’s sales pitch has clearly worked. But if you’re not convinced about whether to buy the iPhone5, here are some things — good and bad — to consider:

It’s sleeker: pro. This incarnation is taller than any other version of the iPhone, with a 4-inch screen that now shows five rows of apps, in addition to the row of bookmarks. This is a step up for HD video, big-screen browsing and easier reading.

The iPhone 4S was no heavyweight, but the iPhone 5 is, by all accounts, unbelievably light. A lot of engineering went into the phone, and this change is noticed as soon as you pick up the device. Its width was unchanged — to remain thumb-friendly. So while there may be a couple of shallow pockets where you could stash the shorter phone before but can’t use now, it shouldn’t be much of a problem. You will, however, need a new case, if you want one.

It’s nicer on the eyes: pro. In addition to its sturdier, more polished look and enlarged screen, that new screen has a finer quality. It’s aimed at making colors pop more while retaining the “retina display” of the iPhone 4S. Which is good, because Apple improved the phone’s camera sensor. That means you’ll look objectively better in phone photos, even without taking that nicer iPhone screen into account.

It’s faster: pro. The new iPhone has an A6 chip at its heart, which is supposed to run twice as fast as the updated A5 chip in the iPhone 4S. The short, practical tests that reviewers gave the phone in brief hands-on sessions have appeared to back that claim up. That gives the phone also has better graphics — making it a better mobile gaming device.

The LTE: pro, if you can get it. Pro: The new iPhone is 4G LTE capable, meaning that it will run, officially, on what the majority of people consider true fourth-generation networks. That’s a good thing, but you’ll want to keep an eye on your data consumption, as those faster speeds will make it much easier to lose track of what you’re consuming. It’s also worth noting that AT&T and Sprint are further — much further, in Sprint’s case — behind Verizon when it comes to LTE rollout, so you should check to see if you’re in an LTE area before you come to expect those faster speeds.

It’s got a new dock connector: part pro, part con. Much has made about Apple’s new iPhone dock connector, which will render the accessories you’ve been holding on to since your first iPod all but obsolete.

They didn’t do this just for fun. The new dock connector, Lightning, is supposed to have faster transfer speeds and is a big part of what makes the phone smaller and lighter. But it’s hard to argue with those who complain that this is a major pain for consumers.

Apple is selling an adapter, which will work with some — but not all — existing accessories. It costs $29.

It’s expensive: con. Apple has been bringing the price of the iPhone down over the years — the first retailed for $499 with 4GB. But the iPhone 5 is still an expensive purchase at $199 and up. There are cheaper premium smartphones out there — Android phones, Windows phones and even the iPhone 4S — for $99 or less. The iPhone 5 is particularly expensive if you have to break a contract to get the upgrade, so think about your wallet before you commit.

In the end, there’s no harm in waiting: No, really. For one, it may be good to wait a little while to see if there are any bugs or problems — see: antennagate, battery life problems — that Apple may want to address with later updates.

And while the new phone is, well, new, there’s no single killer feature that you need to have now that isn’t in, say, the iPhone 4S. In other words, it’s a product cycle that you can sit out if you’re not chomping at the bit for Cupertino’s latest release. Never fear, a new iPhone will be along before you know it.

Related stories:

iPhone 5: Apple predicted to sell 48.2 million by end of December

Bloomberg: Aggressive iPhone 5 launch plan boosts Apple outlook

iPhone 5: Should you buy it?

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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