Apple iPhone 5 Review
Just how good is the iPhone 5?
Because the iPhone 4S was revealed to be an update of the existing model, it's felt like the wait for the iPhone 5 has taken an eternity. In reality, it was less than 12 months since the 4S, with Siri on board, was launched. Now that it's here, what's it actually like? Is it worth upgrading or switching? I think so; in fact, I think Apple's just taken the smart phone bar up another notch. Here we take a closer look with our in depth iPhone 5 review.
Deciding between the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 5s? Check out our guide: should I upgrade to the iPhone 5s?
Apple has gone down the evolution not revolution route with the aesthetic design of the new iPhone and produced a similar looking handset but with subtle differences. If it ain't broke is the order of the day here and an understandable one at that.
The iPhone has always been the most beautiful smart phone on the market, so why make changes for the sake of change? The excitable rumour mill produced many close-but-no-cigar design guesses prior to the phone's launch and although we're disappointed not to see the holographic keyboard, we're happy with the reality.
One of the most notable updates is how incredibly light the new handset is. At 112g, we're talking a full 21g lighter than the Samsung Galaxy S3 and 28g lighter than the 4S. The depth has also dropped by 1.7mm to 7.6mm, which is a full 1mm smaller than the Samsung Galaxy S3.
This reduction in weight comes despite an increase in the screen size to 4-inches. This isn't the goliath-sized display that many were calling for but has been increased by half an inch for a specific reason. According to Apple, four inches is optimum for use in one hand, which, if anything should please my mum. This means that you can hold it and use the thumb on the same hand to navigate around the interface easily. This may be a shrewd move by Apple as its competitors continue to grow in size, which is not to everyone's taste.
At the launch, Apple spent quite some time waxing lyrical about the engineering behind its design and how users would be wowed by the precision and skill that contribute towards manufacturing the iPhone 5. In reality, do we really spend that much time thinking about this when deciding to buy a new phone, or after we've purchased it? 'Have you noticed the exquisite chamfer surrounding the display?' isn't really a question you hear down the pub but it's one that Apple wants you to be asking.
The slate grey styling, sorry, chamfer surrounding, on the black model and grey on the white rounds off a beautiful looking design.
Phone Set Up
We're treated to a 4-inch Retina display (640 x 1136) on the iPhone 5 at 326 pixels per inch (ppi), which boosts colour and clarity. This makes it slightly denser than the 4S and I must say that watching HD is stunning. Apple has long been proud of its display quality and the iPhone 5 does seem to take it up a notch.
In reality, the increase in screen size to four inches gives us an extra row of icons on our display; from four to five. By stretching the length but maintaining the same width as the 4S, the iPhone 5 has a 16:9 aspect ratio, which means it's better for watching television and films. Now, when you watch the latest episode of Homeland, you won't see the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen, as these new dimensions mean you'll watch everything in glorious full-screen.
Apple developed a new A6 chip specifically for the iPhone 5, which is billed as being twice as fast with twice the graphics power. The chip uses a custom designed 1.3GHz ARMv7 dual-core processor, rather than the standard ones used in previous designs. Manufactured by Apple's close friends at Samsung, this chip is 22% smaller than its predecessor, providing a good reason how Apple managed to make the handset so light.
It's the kind of fiasco that would have had Steve Jobs turning in his grave. The ultimate perfectionist, he wouldn't have allowed this to launch until all bugs had been eliminated. Less than 12 hours after the iOS 6 Operating System had been launched, users were reporting problems navigating to locations alongside other errors in the database and warped images.
What's most disappointing is that aside from the programming issues, this is basic UI and UX design, a discipline that Apple normally prides itself on. The company hastily released an apology with an accompanying statement suggesting that users download one of its rival maps while it fixed the problem. Tim Cook, the company's CEO, said 'We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make maps better." An apology from Apple is rare, which highlights the size of the problem.
For example we tried to locate Moseley, a small town not far from the centre of Birmingham, and were presented with the location for Sam Moseley and Co. Solicitors:
Having said this, Maps have recently been returned to the iStore, so this shouldn't cloud one's judgement of the iPhone 5.
One feature of Maps that can be regarded as a triumph, however, is Flyover. This provides users with a 3D view of a city, giving the opportunity to zoom in and out while twisting and turning through the city's streets. The A6 chip minimises lag and makes the experience of viewing the city even more memorable.
Lightning: The new dock connection
This was one of the accurate rumours to leak from Cuppertino. Gone is the 30-point pin and in its place is a reversible, 9-pin dock connection. Reversible because it doesn't matter what way round you plug it in to your phone, it will still work and one of those things you ask why it hasn't always been that way.
Apple says that this new design has enabled them to reduce the phone's weight and size considerably, which is fine. However it's also forcing existing Apple users to upgrade all of its accessories, or buy an adapter to make them work. At £25 the official adapter isn't cheap and does smack of profiteering by the company.
Camera & Video
The iSight camera remains 8MP and keeps its place on the left hand side at the top of the handset, but features a new panoramic shooting option, faster photo capture and improved low-light performance. In reality, the camera is much the same as on the 4S, which was a very good camera, but perhaps not the best on a smart phone.
The improved display on the iPhone 5 means that viewing photographs taken with the camera appear more vivid, however when printed out, or uploaded to a computer, there's very little difference. Make no mistake; this is as good a camera as you may need on a phone and although it's not quite as good as the HTC One X or Nokia 808 Pureview, it more than does the job.
That said, I was really impressed with the way that the iPhone 5 reacts to low lighting. Looking at the photos to the left, you can see very little difference between the image that was taken in almost total darkness without the flash, the image taken with the flash, and finally the image taken with the light on.
HD video recording outputs at 1080p and again, offers little advancement from the 4S. Apple suggests improved video stabilisation and face detection for up to ten faces on the 5 and also enables users to take still photographs while shooting video - a feature now common on other leading smart phones.
The new processor is more efficient, consuming less power than the A5, which contributes to much improved battery life on the iPhone 5. We've spent quite some time with the phone now, using its features extensively in a short period of time, as well as on standby and there is a considerable upgrade to the battery's life.
We took the phone on a day trip to London, using email, phone, internet and maps regularly throughout the day, and by the end of the day we had more than 50% of juice left. We've left the phone on standby overnight and seen only a small percentage drop in battery life, despite being connected to Wifi and Bluetooth at the time. Whether the battery stands the test of time and maintains this performance is to be seen, but it's a good start nonetheless.