iPhone 5 expert review
The iPhone 5 is Apple’s latest flagship handset, and the first major redesign since the iPhone 4. It's faster, lighter and thinner than previous models, despite having a larger 4" touchscreen that gives you room for another row of apps. Have Apple done enough to fend off the competition for smartphone supremacy?
- New 4” screen – A first for the iPhone
- Custom designed dual core A6 processor – faster and more efficient than the 4S
- Latest version of iOS including improved Siri and new PassBook feature
- First iPhone to have 4G capability for faster mobile internet
- New 8 pin Lightning dock connector requires adaptors to work with existing accessories
- 4” screen is still smaller than most rival flagship handsets
- New iOS 6 features like PassBook and Maps don't feel finished, seem rushed
iPhone 5 design
The iPhone 5 is the first major redesign since the introduction of the iPhone 4 two years ago. For the first time ever on an iPhone, the size of the screen has been increased from 3.5” to 4”, making room for an extra row of icons on screen and allowing widescreen videos to play without borders. The phone has also been made thinner and lighter than any previous iPhone and now claims to be the thinnest smartphone on the market at just 7.6mm.
As with all iPhones, the 5 is most definitely a premium product and you can tell this from the moment you pick it up. The new aluminium back makes the phone feel well built and solid in the hand. Apple says that this is the most beautiful product they have ever made and I have to agree. The black version features matt anodised aluminium giving the phone a stealth aircraft style look while the white handset has a raw aluminium finish that contrasts nicely with the white front and back inlays. Regardless which you go for, they both look great in the flesh.
The one disadvantage of the new design is that, if anything, it may be a bit too light. The iPhone 5 is 20% lighter than the previous model. I like the heavyweight feel of the iPhone 4S so the 5 will take a bit of getting used to but this is purely personal preference. I have to say when I first picked it up I was shocked at the weight but it has really grown on me throughout the test and Apple certainly haven’t compromised on the durability or solidity of the device to shed the pounds.
iPhone 5 hardware
The processor in the iPhone 5 is a brand new chip custom designed by Apple called the A6. It is not only faster than the processor in the previous model but it is also smaller and more efficient leaving more room inside for other hardware and extending the battery life. The speed increase over the 4S is significant which is amazing considering the 4S is already one of the most responsive phones on the market.
The new chip also allows improved graphics especially in 3D games and they are beautifully displayed on the new 4” widescreen display. The screen has been made taller rather than wider so it still feels familiar in the hand. The screen also features better colour saturation over the 4S meaning colours are more vivid and lifelike. Photos and HD videos taken using the iSight camera should look especially good.
Another new feature is the introduction of 4G support, meaning that the iPhone 5 will be able to take advantage of the new EE 4G network when it is launched in the UK. 4G is significantly faster than 3G and may even be quicker than your home broadband internet connection. Only a few cities in the UK will be supported at launch so you’ll have to decide yourself whether 4G is a benefit or not.
The most controversial new feature on the iPhone 5 is the new 8-pin dock connector. This replaces the 10-year-old 30-pin design meaning that any existing accessories you own will require an adaptor to connect to the handset. Although initially this may seem to be a negative point, the new dock connector is a massive improvement over the old one. It feels a lot more durable and secure and is easier to use as it can be inserted either way up – no more blind fumbling round through tired eyes trying to connect the charger before bed. You may end up spending a lot on new cables and adaptors though if you want different types of connectivity throughout the house though.
iPhone 5 software
As has become the norm with Apple, the latest handset also comes with the latest version of their excellent iOS software. We are now on the 6th version of iOS and this is easily the best version yet. The web browser (Safari) and the Mail application have both received upgrades and it is now possible to automatically respond with a text message when you reject a call – very handy indeed as just sending people to voicemail can be a bit impersonal sometimes. Also, the camera now features an excellent panorama mode and you can take photos while recording a video. We found this panorama mode to be really smooth in our tests and head and shoulders above most of the 3rd party apps we’ve tried on iPhones in the past to do the same thing.
The most significant change is that Apple has chosen to end their partnership with Google for the Maps application. TomTom now provide the map information and Apple have incorporated Siri to provide spoken turn-by-turn navigation. The iPhone can now be used as a sat nav without the need for additional software – rejoice!
As well as being incorporated into Maps, Siri itself has also undergone a major overhaul. You can now use Siri to search for local restaurants and businesses, a feature that was previously only available in the USA. Siri can also link into IMDB to provide movie and actor information and can even tell you what is playing at your local cinema. Sports scores are also now included so you can quickly check how your favourite team did at the weekend. This is mainly focussed towards American sports at the moment, cricket and rugby are not supported for example, but future updates should hopefully improve this and it’s in Apple’s long term plans to keep Siri growing.
Another useful new feature is the integration of Facebook into the OS. This allows you to quickly post status updates, share website links and upload photos without having to open the Facebook application itself.
All of these features (apart from taking photos while recording video) will also be available on the 4S so you may not feel the need to upgrade if you already have a 4S.
Agent verdict on the iPhone 5
In this Agent’s humble opinion, the iPhone 5 is by far the best iPhone yet. Although there are no major new features, every single aspect of the handset has been improved over the 4S. The new design looks and feels great and the larger screen really makes a difference. The new processor is a huge improvement as well and everything feels quicker and smoother.
If you already have an iPhone 4S, then you will have to decide for yourself whether the hardware improvements are enough to tempt you. Even comparing it to other flagship handsets from major manufacturers, the iPhone 5 really is one of the best handsets available.