iPhone 5: Why the rumours don't excite me

Thankfully smartphone evolution, not revolution, is the order of the day...

The next generation of Apple's iPhone - the iPhone 5 - can't be as radical as the original device. And that's great news for mobile users, says silicon.com's Natasha Lomas.

Nearly three years ago I wrote a column about the iPhone 3G's shortcomings. Among the 10 things I said I'd like to change about the second generation of Apple's smartphone was its lack of a physical keyboard, its lack of cut-and-paste functionality, the inability to tether the handset for use as a modem, its non-removable battery and the paucity of megapixels on its camera. I also griped about the lack of video recording, no PAYG iPhones and no native VoIP client. And I wanted more storage, too.

Many of these issues were better described as nitpicking than serious shortcomings, even back in 2008. Three years on, and two generations of iPhone later, the iPhone 4 may still be sans physical keyboard and removable battery but cut and paste, tethering and a perfectly decent point-and-shoot camera are all on board.

There's also video recording, PAYG iPhones, VoIP video-chatting via FaceTime and double the storage of three years ago. So am I happy now?

Smartphones then and now: Palm Centro, Nokia E66 and Apple iPhone 4

Smartphones then and now: From left to right, the Palm Centro, the Nokia E66 and Apple's iPhone 4Image: Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

Mobile users are a lot happier actually. The smartphones of 2011 are a very different breed to 2008's bag. Back then, HTC was still flogging the Windows Mobile dead horse - as was Palm - and hedging its bets on the Qwerty vs touchscreen front, too.

Meanwhile Nokia, the world's biggest mobile maker had produced an interesting touchscreen device - an "internet tablet", no less - but apparently hadn't thought to extend this tech to its smartphones. Cutting-edge design for 2008's Mighty Finn meant producing an eye-wateringly expensive carbon-fibre edition of one of its candybar mobiles. From such hubris, it's but a short walk into Steve Ballmer's sweaty embrace.

Fast-forward to 2011 and smartphones are, if not identikit, then at least exhibiting a shared context. We are living in a post-iPhone world where slab-like touchscreens, not candybar Qwertys, are the norm - albeit with the exception of BlackBerry maker RIM. Software rather than hardware is where the most exciting changes are taking place.

None of these shifts have stopped the rumour mill spinning of course. It is still churning out a steady stream of iPhone X tittle-tattle. But Apple's handset has reached...