September 24th, 2012


The internet is filled with blacks and whites. There’s very little gray.

Reviews of the iPhone 5 have roundly described it as a superlative device, and some have declared it the best smartphone ever made.

That may very well be. I don’t know, I’ve only used it for three days now, and it’s getting a little blurry at the top either way (just tenths of a point separate the top-rated smartphones on The Verge). Irrational fears of scratching and scuffing aside — it’s metal, what did you expect? — I can tell you that the hardware is beyond amazing. iOS has developed a rather thick patina in the five years since its introduction, but it’s still serviceable. In many ways, it’s the easiest and most intuitive mobile platform available, just as it has always been.

But back to the black and white: what upsets me is the notion that overwhelming, record-setting retail success and phrases like “best ever” are somehow incompatible with a desperate need for improvement. They’re not. I commented last week on Twitter that iOS is “deficient,” which was met with particularly strong reaction. I don’t know any other way to describe a phone that always tells me it’s 73 degrees and sunny, can’t tell me what bus to take to a Cubs game, and won’t let me choose an input method that better suits my needs like Swype or SwiftKey. If you can think of a better term, I’d love to hear it.

And notice what I’ve done: I’ve created a gray area. The iPhone 5 can be excellent, wildly successful, and deficient all at the same time, just like pretty much everything else in the real world.

Unfortunately, legitimate gray areas like this make Apple pundits, anti-Apple pundits, and millions of trolls around the world uncomfortable because they’re both accurate and disarming. There’s very little entertainment in civil discourse, and I don’t expect them to take off.

No coincidence the iPhone comes in black and white, I suppose.

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