While the iPhone 5 rumors were popping, I couldn't help think this was just some kind of stretched out iPhone 4S. During the keynote presentation, I was impressed by the features but couldn't help continuing on this path: Would it just be the same?
Well, when I finally got the thing in my hand, even for a few minutes, I was delighted to discover how different it is.
Yes, the iPhone 5 is thinner and lighter than the iPhone 4S, but not in a plasticky way that would suggest some of Samsung's smartphones. If the iPhone 4S represents the heft and machined precision of a handgun, the iPhone 5 has the impossible physique of a laser blaster. It's light and thin in the way that the future should be.
The matte finish on the smartphone's back is a blessing and a curse. I like that there's a lot less glass here for me to shatter, but the way it looks takes away from the pure elegance of the iPhone 4 design: Two panes of shiny glass, separated by a steel border. I find that the white iPhone 5 (above) looks a little washed out, less bold, where the black version (below) is smarter, if perhaps more masculine than its predecessor.
The taller screen is not as gangly as I has thought, and when I saw a clip of "The Avengers" on it, I could appreciate why the design decision was made. Movies aren't my No. 1 activity on my phone, but the 16x9 ratio is a major standard for movies and more, so it just makes sense.
There's a springiness to the phone's interface that suggests the stomping A6 processor, but I couldn't load up anything that let me really see the polygons fly. Also, part of that smoother operation could be iOS 6, because much of it — for instance, the Music app — has been retooled to better interact with iCloud and iTunes.
What was a fun thing to test out, even if I never use it in real life, is the camera's Panorama feature: You just hoist the phone aloft and pan across your field of view, and you end up with a seamless panoramic image, suitable for framing (if you're any good at photography, that is — alas, I am not).
Wilson Rothman is the Technology & Science editor at NBC News Digital. Catch up with him on Twitter at @wjrothman, and join our conversation on Facebook.