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October 9, 2012

Slate: The iPhone 5 is a miracle

(Continued)

Manufacturers call this "build quality," and Apple made a big deal out of it at its press event. But I dismissed it: I've always appreciated the build quality of Apple's devices, but I could not understand how better manufacturing would change the iPhone in an appreciable way. After all, every other iPhone was built really well, too. But the only way to appreciate how much more solid the iPhone 5 feels is to use it for a few days_and, crucially, to use it without stuffing it into a case. (Really, you should never use a case: The phone is made of aluminum, so it's less likely to break than the old, all-glass models. If you're going to get a case for the iPhone 5, you're ruining its best feature_it'd be like losing a bunch of weight and celebrating by donning a fat suit.) Compared to the iPhone 5, all other products will feel cheap. Even Apple's products: When I hold my Macbook Air, I now notice gaps between the bottom cover and the body, or the ugly way the screen is indented into the frame. I can't think of any other mass-manufactured product I've used that was as perfectly crafted as this phone.

I could have remained silent about my reversal. It's been weeks since the iPhone 5 went on sale, so there's no real point in my writing a review_dozens of critics, and more importantly millions of actual customers, have had a chance to use the device, so the opinion of one more tech writer isn't really a big deal. But I decided to speak up after reading John Gruber's review of the phone. Gruber, who runs the blog Daring Fireball and is an obsessive chronicler of Apple, argued that the tech critics like myself weren't adequately valuing niceness, his word for how solid the iPhone 5 feels in your hands. He wrote:

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