Apple's iPhone 5 hit the shelves and the Web Friday with the company's traditional gift for fanfare and consumer enthusiasm.
But in addition to being slimmer, lighter, faster and sporting a bigger screen, there are two aspects of this product launch New Yorkers need to be aware of.
Theft recovery help from NYPD
If you drop into one of 21 stores that sell Apple products Friday you're likely to see members of the NYPD there. Unlike the rest of us they aren't there for the products and free WiFi, they're there to make it easier to return your device in case it gets stolen.
iPhones and other electronics have become popular targets for thieves in recent years, as shown in numerous police reports like this one.
“The theft of Apple phones and other hand-held devices drove the spike in robberies and larceny this year. Individuals alert to their surroundings are less likely to become victims, and Operation ID will help those whose property is lost or stolen to get it back,” said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly in a statement.
Dubbed "Operation ID," officers from the NYPD Community Affairs Bureau will be at 21 stores that sell Apple products throughout NYC on Friday, including six Apple stores in Manhattan, as well as seven Verizon and eight AT&T locations.
The officers will register your new or already-owned device's serial number along with the owner's name and contact information into a police database. For an added layer of security they'll engrave a second unique number on the device beginning with the letters "N.Y.C."
The officers will also instruct owners in how to activate and use Apple's "Find my iPhone" technology, which can aid in tracking down a stolen device.
For more information, see the attached PDF.
New Maps app skips transit
While the NYPD is making it easier to recover stolen devices, Apple's latest update to their mobile operating system, iOS 6, could make it harder for some users to find their way around.
The Google Maps-based Maps app has been replaced with Apple's own version which does not include mass transit information, a feature of key importance for many New Yorkers.
This isn't just an issue for purchasers of the iPhone 5 however. iTunes will automatically install the new operating system on the following devices unless the user declines:
- iPhone 3GS
- iPhone 4
- iPhone 4S
- iPod Touch (fourth generation)
- iPod Touch (fifth generation)
- iPad 2
- The new iPad
Luckily, there are a number of alternatives and work arounds. If you already own an iDevice the simplest solution is to not update your iOS until Apple fixes the issue.
But if you buy the new iPhone — or really want the new features of the iOS 6 — there are several alternative apps and resources:
- The MTA has its own browser-based trip planner. Their site also has a selection of other transit apps.
- Google Maps now has a mobile browser-based version of the "classic" app.
- iTrans NYC is an app for MTA subway and bus routing and trip planning which includes service updates.
- Embark NYC is an app for subway users with service updates.
In our experience all four of these options (five if you count the "classic" Maps app) provide slightly different guidance, so it's up to the user to determine which the best way to get somewhere. The MTA browser-based planner seems to be the most accurate, but sometimes has issues with crashing.
The bottom line though is there's really no substitute for personal knowledge of the transit system and having a map in your pocket. Luckily, there's an app for that!
- NYC Subway is a zoomable copy of the official MTA subway line map with service change notices, but only provides routes from station to station.