Hello iPhone 5, I Want To Hate You

Hello iPhone 5, I Want To Hate You

Hello iPhone 5, nice to meet you. My name is Mark Serrels and I want to hate you. It’s your job to convince me I should still care, that you are still worth my time. This may sound harsh but it’s the way I feel and I can’t change that. Only you can change that. You can change that by being better than I expect you to be. You can change that by subverting my perceptions and being good for the video games I love to play. You can change that by surpassing my expectations.

Some perspective: I have an iPhone 4S. Before that I had an iPhone 3GS. Before that, I had some dreadful phone and I don’t want to talk about those dark, dark days. I have loved iPhones, I have caressed them, I have dropped them and I have cradled them. I have discovered a new type of gaming through iPhones and it is only now, after being underwhelmed by what Apple had to show at their last conference that I’m thinking about changing.

A week ago my friend passed me his Samsung SIII. It felt big. It felt new. It felt like I had been given something that was a step up. I gave it back to him, I quickly checked twitter on my iPhone 4S. It felt old fashioned.

A week later, I saw the iPhone 5. I looked at the design. I felt underwhelmed. It still looked old fashioned.

iPhone 5 — I want to hate you. I want an excuse — any excuse, really — to switch.


I am not a tech-head. I don’t care about benchmarking. I wouldn’t know where to begin. I’m not going to weigh the iPhone 5 and I’m not going to do a speed-test. I’m going to pick up this iPhone 5 and I’m going to play games on it. Then I’m going to report back. This is what I am going to do. If you want those other things, you should head to Gizmodo.

But I will say one thing — the iPhone 5 is light. It’s the first thing you’ll notice when you hold it in your hand. I’ve heard people criticise the Samsung SIII for being light and feeling cheap — but the iPhone 5 feels light in a different way.

And I will say one other thing: if you have a 4G connection on your iPhone 5, games will download fast. Very fast indeed. Lightning fast.

Apple has also cleverly upped the 3G download limit from 20MB to 50MB. Which means you can download most games without being connected to Wi-Fi. This was handy.

These were the first things I noticed.


The second thing I noticed was the ubiquitous black bars around every single game I downloaded.

The iPhone 5 is bigger — you are probably aware of this. It’s bigger lengthwise but the same width. Its resolution is 1136 by 640 and practically identical to normal widescreen ratios. This is mostly a good thing, but it leaves almost every game on iOS with some pretty ugly black bars on both sides. I don’t expect this to be a problem for long — most popular games, I expect, will have updates to fit the new iPhone 5, but for now, these black bars exist, and they don’t look great.

All the iOS stalwarts I’ve played so far — Tiny Wings, Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja — have these black bars. And brand new titles like Rayman Jungle Run are also somehow beholden to them. Even supremely high end titles like those in the Real Racing series are stuck with the same black bars.

Some are already updated for the new resolution, but these games are few and far between — Temple Run, for example is fitted for the new resolution — but truthfully, it didn’t take me all that long to adjust. Seconds actually. iOS games tend to be twitch-timing, reaction-based affairs, so I barely noticed the black bars once I started playing. In fact, it almost made me nostalgic for playing PAL games on my N64 back in the day.

But it’s far from ideal. It’s a very real issue — particularly since, with iPhone gaming, folks very rarely adventure outside of the games they’ve already downloaded. Most get buy their Fruit Ninjas, their Flight Controls and that’s enough. Updates will come, undoubtedly, but for now it’s an issue.


The iPhone 5 feels nice to hold, and this is important. I like the lightness of it, and I like the way the improved processor speed makes everything seem responsive.

It’s noticeable. Even when typing; when searching for games on the App Store. It’s noticeable during the games as well, but perhaps less so. The overall experience of using an iPhone 5 is slick, controlled and rapid. The ability to very quickly download new games over 4G is a boon, it matters. The last time I tested out an iPhone for gaming I had to wait for things to download. This time, there was no wait.

The overwhelming impression I have is this: gaming on iOS doesn’t seem like a priority for Apple, not really, but that doesn’t stop it being the best destination if you want to play on your mobile phone. That’s nothing to do with Apple’s design, which is outdated. It has nothing to do with the resolution, which is now awkward.

It has everything to do with the iOS marketplace and the overwhelming amount of people who use it — which is a self fulfilling cycle. Games are tailored for the iPhone and mobile games are designed specifically for it. Android will continue to be of secondary importance until Apple really screw up.

I want to hate the iPhone 5, but it’s difficult. It’s difficult because the best mobile games are designed for the iPhone 5 and, no matter what Apple does, what they change or don’t change, this will continue to be the case. If you want to play games on your mobile device, prepare to be tethered to this thing, with its strange design and irritating black bars. I don’t hate the iPhone 5, but I don’t necessarily like it.

But for now, I think I’m probably stuck with it.


  • I have had a Samsung Galaxy sII for about four months now, I bought it second hand off eBay for 300 bucks. I had lost my amazing phone of five years, the original motorola razor, and felt it was necessary to upgrade. I decided to veer from the iPhone and its obvious dominance of the market and it was one of the best things I’ve done in a long time. The sII felt new, light, bigger, faster and better. I felt less constrained by the OS than I had when I’d tinkered with my brothers’ iPhones, but I never really got into gaming until about last week, when I downloaded Dead Trigger. It has been a long time since I’d played a game on a mobile, probably three years ago when I played the original Iron Man game on my brother’s iPhone touch, but everything had improved. I noticed that in comparison to my brother who was playing COD Zombies on iPhone, the 16:9 widescreen was so much better for actually being able to see more on screen without your oversized thumbs getting in the way. It actually is a good experience to play. Yes, it has numerous flaws, and maybe Dead Trigger is a diamond in the rough for gaming on Android, but it feels so much more natural than anything I’ve played on the iPhone.

  • iOS games are the only thing keeping me from moving, I’ve toyed with the idea of just getting an iPod touch to meet that need but the tradeoff is it’s just another device I need to cart around and keep charged.

  • Games and the built in control’s in headphones for music are what keep me on iOS atm. That said if sony releases an xperia play 2 (that’s actually got decent insides instead of the currently gimped xperia play) I’ll jump ship. But i doubt it. Sony isn’t keen to outshine it’s vita just yet I don’t think :/

    • You do realise that the same headphones work on Android with the headphone controls? EG. i’m using the Etymotic HF2’s and the button and mic on the cord works for controlling the music and making phone calls.

      • oh shit, I just read your post properly, what I mean’t by mine is that “I am looking for a reason to hate the iPhone 5, how about because of the “lack of capitalisation and the inability of people to space nouns correctly” was my point, in retrospect it may have come across as a dig at some hidden poor spelling or grammar in your post, my bad, was unintentional

  • I will admit while from an aesthetics point of view the iphone 5 does seem….dated. Compared to the 4s, the 5 ISN’T a huge technological leap. However, a lot of the reviews i hear seem that the simple fact that it has just evolved to make the every day tasks you already do that little bit better really is all that was required, even more so for those who have a iphone 4 or older.

    As someone who is on his 3dr iPhone, i will admit, im glad i have to wait for next year till my contract runs out, because the iphone 5 has not grabbed me. Sure the bigger screen would be nice. and who doesn’t like the idea of 4g, but these are not unique things to the iphone.

    If i was out of contract at this point, i probably just wouldn’t upgrade. Android phones have not wowed me enough to move me away from my investment in the apple platform. But the iphone 5 definitely isnt impressing me enough to even consider an upgrade.

    • ” simple fact that it has just evolved to make the every day tasks you already do that little bit better”

      With their new found obsession to remove anything ‘Google’ from the phone, I very much doubt it now. Just look up the new Map app and how much problems it’s been causing all for the sake of having it branded Apple.

      • Actually those apps were removed/replaced because Apple’s contract with Google expired after iOS 5 and either one of the companies decided not to renew it. It could just as much be Google’s fault as Apple’s.

        • How keen would you be to deal with a company who is bending over backwards to screw your company out of the market segment

    • I think the days of huge technological leaps are probably over; it’s more just fine tuning at this point for both Apple and Samsung. I’m currently out of contract, but neither the iPhone 5 or GalaxyS3 seem to impress me enough to convince me to upgrade.

  • Having tried an SIII just last night for a while and comparing it to what the iPhone 5 is, my money’s on the SIII. Main reason being the 2 year contracts that a telco puts you on, I want something that will still be slightly relevant in 2 years. Iphone5 just doesn’t seem like it will be a phone that can grow as such.

  • I don’t want to make this a flame war, but moving to the SGS2 was a great decision for me. I spend more time browsing the web on my phone than making calls, so the bigger screen and hdd (at the time) really made the phone for me.

    That said, I don’t want my gf to get one because I don’t think she’s up to it.

  • Looks like Jetpack Joyride has an “iPhone5 compatible” update out already, doesn’t specifically mention fixing the black bar resolution issue but I assume it must.

  • Will be interesting to see how gaming evolves when it comes to WP8, WIndows8 and Xbox720…

    The next 12 months will be interesting for the gaming sector across the board and Mobile gaming is going to play a key roll in all of it…

      • I can see where he is coming from. I have a lot invested in the IOS framework as far as apps and such goes. It is hard to consider changing paths at this point because I would lose literally hundreds of dollars in games and apps. I’m not a die-hard lover of either platform, and am curious what Android or even W8 phones are like, but I will have to hit a point where it’s not just being a bit ‘meh’ to walk away from IOS.

        That said, my next phone probably will be an Android, mostly because I moved most of my IOS stuff onto an iPad, which I love a lot. It has flaws, but it does everything I want it to and the big screen is great for my crap eyes – even iphone/ipod games are helped for me by being zoomed. 😉 So that leaves my phone with nothing on it, really, except a few ‘standing in line’ games like, well, Fruit Ninja and Tiny Birds. 😉 So I don’t really lose much when I do move.

        I am not overly disappointed with the iPhone 5. I am unsure what people expected Apple to do to be ‘radically new’, and don’t think most people know either. Which is a problem for Apple, in that being adequate isn’t quite ‘enough’, especially in the current environments online where admitting you like Apple products gets all the iSheep, dumb idiot, whatever jokes – I hate those, from both sides. Both IOS and Android are /good products/. They do what they need to, they grow steadily. But neither is revolutionary, and both have flaws. IOS is more locked down and probably has a few less features than some (Not all) Android phones. Android is fragmented to heck and back again and for someone who doesn’t follow tech blogs it is very hard to tell what is good and what is crap.

        Apple also has the problem that it’s one (Two if you count iPad, three if iPod) hardware line has to compete against Every Android Phone Ever. So if one Android phone has NFC, another has LTE, and a third has some other new gimmick, if Apple doesn’t include all three in it’s phone, it is ‘falling behind’.

        Getting back to the iPhone 5, it is exactly what I would have expected and wanted. Not sure about the connector change, but it has been a decade almost of the old one, and I can’t really feel it is fair to demand they Never Change Connectors Ever Ever. I do wish they’d gone straight USB, but there are pros and cons against that. It has a processor that is as fast as anything and will definatly be enough for the next year or more. The screen is improving, taking on a proper aspect ratio can only help. Battery life is sufficient. Overall, it is steady progress without a radical form factor change that, while some seem to demand it, would also mean another radical split in app compatibility, and one nice thing is most apps have a degree of universalness.

        Anyway, this is long! But I can see WHY he wanted to hate it. And why it just wasn’t ‘meh’ enough to warrant a major platform jump. The iPhone 5 isn’t BAD. I am not sure if it is GREAT, but I am not sure what it would take for such a jaded industry to consider great, especially from the company they resent most. It is, in the end, certainly adequate, and a lot of the problems (Like maps being crap and such) are software issues that can and probably will be fixed. There is a huge difference between the hardware (iPhone) and the OS (IOS), and I think people spend a lot of time using one to say the other is flawed, on both platforms.

        • EXCELLENT post.

          The funny thing about the iSheep comments is that Apple fans do get a fair bit of stick. Samsung know this, and they know they can’t win over the hardcore Apple fans, so they market themselves as the “Anti-Apple”. They align themselves with people who hate Apple, in the process collecting their own legion of angry fanboys who are just as bad as Apple fanboys. It’s kinda like the Ford VS Holden crowd at V8 Supercar races; they all just look like bogans.

          • And then there’s the surprisingly small minority of people who buy the phone they like more and that just works better for them. 3-4 years back that was a iphone 3GS for me when i really just wanted an ipod and phone in one and android was still teething a bit, now it’s the Galaxy SIII because I browse a LOT more on my phone, music is fine on android now and as someone who loves nothing more than customisation I can have my ultra minimalist look.

            Wait.. I mean to say HOLDEN4LIFE DAWG!!!!!!!!!!! FORDIZTEHBADZORZ YO!

          • Great post.

            I had exactly the same issue earlier this year – considering moving away from iOS but not wanting to lose my investment in apps etc. I do have an iPad, so have not lost all the apps, but was still a difficult decision.

            I agree with your assessment of the iPhone 5 – there’s nothing ‘revolutionary’ to come at the moment… the market has matured.

            Anyway, I moved to the HTC One X and haven’t regretted it even slightly. I don’t do much mobile gaming – lots on the PC, and for what I want in a smartphone the Android platform is pretty sweet.

  • Can you actually show us what these horrific black bars of death look like? Wouldn’t they allow more “touch” room without it taking up so much of the game room?

    • They are just letterboxing to make games/apps meant for the old aspect ratio when running on the new one. They are probably dead space in apps that have them, but most seem to be updating quickly. It remains to be seen what will happen going down the line with people who have the old one if new apps decide to only support the new ratio, also not sure how the iPad will render non-universal apps written for the new one.

  • Mark, you do know that it just officially went out into the public not three days ago. And that game developers in the iOS – for the most part – seems to be small companies or even n-man teams. Give it a bit more time for the Devs to get their hands on the rig THEN you can deliver the verdict. Early access to Apple hardware/info is not easy to come by and its even worse if youre a small company.

    Its not a Sony/Nintendo/Xbox product where companies can buy dev licenses and develop apps and games ahead of the launch date.

  • If gaming is a consideration on your phone, don’t overlook the Tegra 3 One X. THD games look amazing. Effects like steam, sunrays, shadows, physics, reflections, ragdolls and liquid physics set these apart from normal phone games. And IMO One X is better than an S3…. unless you really love Touchwiz :S

  • I’ve got a HTC One XL and a GALAXY SIII for work, before that, Samsung Galaxy SII and before that, lots of iPhones. In my experience. Of the different devices and OS, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m heading back to iPhone and for one simple reason….. Android still doesn’t feel finished.

    The One XL and GALAXY SIII are amazing handsets, spoilt by a great idea (Android) that’s been poorly executed. I see thread after thread about bugs and issues with every slow and agonizing software update and the Google Play store is a nightmare.

    Say what you will about Apple’s max security closed platform, but it works properly. I encourage people to disagree with me, as this is just my opinion and in no way stated as fact. Everyone should try them out and pick the one that suits them. I wanted to love Android as much as I love the hardware that runs it, but like I said….. It’s not finished yet.

  • I can’t move away from the iPhone either even though getting anything other than an iPhone will be significantally cheaper 🙁 Too much money invested into iTunes & all the games I want are being ported to iOS

  • iPhone 5 is amazing! One of the most trending gadget today, it is also compatible for a new technology gadget like magic cube (www.magiccubestore.com) – a laser projection Bluetooth keyboard and mouse enabling you to type just the way you do it on a conventional keyboard.

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