Review: Apple iPhone 5

iPhone5

So Cupertino’s latest creation is in the process of being rolled out across the world. The iPhone has created the lines at stores around Australia, so enthusiasm for the phone remains high. With that in mind, how does it stack up? By now I’d expect you’ve read many of the glowing reviews from the Apple fanboys that get early access.

If you’re interested in a more balanced review from someone who uses devices from the 3 major platforms, then enjoy my review below.

Design

Few other companies pay as much attention and detail to the industrial design of a product as Apple. There’s no doubt the revised design of the iPhone 5 is still sexy, especially the black version. It’s clear what happened here, Apple got sick of complaints and replacements for smashed glass on the back of the phone and has remedied it with aluminium. There is just something about the feeling of having dual-glass sides that is missed here.

Many who hold the device have claimed amazing weight reductions, however this is deceptive. While some have expressed the feeling as if it doesn’t have a battery inside, the reality is your perceptions are being tricked by physics. The real test is to hold an iPhone 4S in your left hand while holding the iPhone 5 in your right. Now close your eyes.

Something remarkable happens.. your brain adjusts and now you’ll notice there’s really not much difference (112g vs 137g). So what’s going on here? We’re programmed to believe that larger objects are heavier. Basic physics would explain that having more of something should weigh more, unless the components are made of different material.

iPhone5

Hardware

The Larger 4.0” display adds not only another row of icons, but more importantly more screen real estate when doing regular tasks. When entering text, the content area is now much more useful with plenty of room for the on-screen keyboard.

Dock connector
We are still yet to receive an explanation for the disruptive change that the new dock connector creates. However the value of having a dual-sided port should not be under-rated. This should be become a standard across all cables.

NanoSIM
Apple’s fascination with small continues to the sim card or more importantly the sim card slot. The iPhone 5 introduces the NanoSIM which means upgraders will need a new SIM card.

Camera
With a megapixel count on-par with the previous generation, the camera on the iPhone 5, shouldn’t surprise in functionality. There is a change to the lens glass which is supposed to be better in avoiding scratches and yield better low-light performance.

The front-facing camera has had a decent improvement from VGA to 1.2Mgpx, so say goodbye to the horrible grainy results we’re used to. Let’s face it, the front-facing camera is occasionally used for FaceTime or Skype calls, so not a big deal. The camera up front is now centered and actually smaller than the last version, but delivers 720p video.

Speed
You’ll be hard pressed to notice the speed and GPU improvements on basic apps. When it comes to high performance tasks like rendering a video from iMovie, or loading 3D games then you will save a few seconds.

Headphones
The new white earbuds are alien shaped and you’ll double-triple check the L and R to make sure you have them in the right way. Bizarrely the feel comfortable and surprisingly these are actually offer decent sound. Most of us however have already purchased better headphones because the last ones have been so bad.

iPhone5

Software

iOS6 has a few new noteworthy features including Apple Maps to replace Google Maps which has some serious flaws. The panorama mode in the camera app is well done and will come in handy but was already available in plenty of 3rd party apps. Application support for the iPhone 5’s larger display will take some time to arrive, but there are already a few updates waiting.

When I heard that 960×480 applications would have black bars at the top and bottom, I was worried. In reality the black version pulls this off really well as the app fades into the glass. On the white version this would be incredibly obvious and may be enough to avoid that colour.

The 16:9 aspect ratio of the screen feels like it should have been that way since the first version. Apple resisted this but has finally resolved to industry standard for content. Horizontal viewing now makes much more sense. Wether this follows in the next iPad will be an interesting one to watch.

iPhone5

Price & Availability

The iPhone 5 went on sale today in Australia and has all but sold out. If you’re still after one, the best option may be to head to a reseller. As this post is being written, timezones are coming online around the world and judging from the chatter on twitter, Apple’s update and activation servers are struggling to handle the load.

As for prices and plans, head to the Apple website or the carrier website for plan details. As mentioned in a previous post, its disappointing to see more data not being offered given the 4G support. On that topic, my house in Wodonga is easily covered according to Telstra’s 4G coverage maps, yet I only seen LTE shown briefly on two occasions. Be careful if you’re buying just for the extra network speed.

Reports from Sydney and Melbourne indicate 4G speeds are regularly in excess of 20MB/s. Only time will tell how severely this drops as more iPhone’s flood the 4G networks. Still, a flooded 4G network should still perform better than a flooded 3G one.

 

iPhone5

Overall

I like it, but. The phone is an incremental update that feels very familiar very quickly. The times where the screen real estate is well used by updated apps is a real advantage. If you live in a 4G area, then the additional speed will help be more productive (or social) while waiting in line.

The updated dimensions are annoying when it comes to any docks you have which is only made worse by the new dock connector. It’d be different if the new Lightning bolt connector made backups or charging faster, but it’s just a fancy double-sided USB2.0 cable.

This phone really should have had wireless charging and NFC support and now it doesn’t, leaves the door wide open for 12 months for Apple’s share to be eroded. If Apple really do believe their hardware basically done, then they need to innovate on the software in a big way.

iPhone addicts already have their phones by now, but if you’re sitting on the fence know this. I have upgraded to every iPhone released in Australia and I won’t own this. After using the iPhone 5 I can’t say I’m sad about it. There just wasn’t enough new to make it worth it.

  • http://blog.danielburrowes.com/ Daniel B

    I am waiting to all the flagship shop come to market before making a decision. I am so far really sold on the Nokia Lumia 920, but waiting till they’re in store. I have the iPhone 4 so this would be a decent upgrade, but I am really not excited about it this round.