Sleek Apple design; 4G support to come; larger, vibrant display; powerful performance; nearly the same great snapper as on the 4S; Siri proves her worth now.
Steep price; OS looks dated; Maps limited and suffer from bugs; Most apps have ugly borders; Lack of memory card slot; Fragile feel.
We’re not surprised that this is the best iPhone to date. It’s thin, light and has a roomy 4-inch Retina screen. But the operating system feels dated and there are some major issues. Plus, Apple has brought nothing major new to the show. Of course there are the usual iPhone issues too – that fragile feel and the lack of a memory card slot, along with the wallet-busting price.
‘Mixed’ was the only way to describe the reaction to the launch of Apple’s iPhone 5. While plenty of folk said Apple had created its best iPhone ever, with its new slim chassis and bigger display, others were disappointed that there wasn't a real USP to make them want to go out and buy it.
So, if you already have an iPhone, is it worth spending the £529 (for a 16GB version,) or the 64GB model at £699?
The preceding iPhones have all looked pretty similar, but the iPhone 5 has a different, stretched appearance – rather as if the iPhone 4S had been run over by a steamroller. Not only is it longer but it’s thinner too – and lighter, weighing only 112g. That starts to put it on a par with the latest Android handsets, and does make the older iPhones seem distinctly cumbersome.
The back of the handset also looks different. Instead of the one piece of glass that we have seen in the past, the iPhone 5 has an aluminium reverse sporting two strips of glass at the bottom and top. It looks great – although the metal does attract scuffs easily. Mind you, you won’t see it for long because you’ll be rushing out and buying a case because the iPhone 5 feels as fragile as its earlier incarnations.
The other big difference – apart from the longer display – is the FaceTime snapper, which now sits in a more centred location. You’ll find the same buttons on the edges – SIM card slot on the right, while the left edge sports the mute and volume keys. But now the earpod port has been moved to a more sensible location on the base, which means it is no longer necessary to move the handset round if you pop it into a pocket while listening to music. Also, the docking port has been changed – and is now dubbed ‘Lightning’ – more on that later…
The other difference is that you can only use the miniscule ‘Nano SIM’ cards on the iPhone 5 – it’s a nuisance because it means you’ll have to swap your existing cards if you’re not buying the phone on contract.
On the bigger screen…
As we said, one of the major differences is the bigger, 4-inch display. It’s no less sharp for being stretched, and you still get that fantastic 326 pixels-per-inch. Our phones looked incredibly realistic, and colours were great with excellent saturation levels. The display is also just as bright as in the past – with fabulous viewing angles too. There’s no tough-glass protection though, which would have been nice – make sure you invest in a screen cover and case if you are at all clumsy.
I’ve got the power
Power has been boosted in this new iPhone with the inclusion of the new A6 chip. It doesn't make much difference when using basic apps and going through menus, but memory-intensive games certainly benefit from its oomph. We loaded The Dark Knight Rises in 10 seconds less than it took on the iPhone 4S – it doesn't seem like a lot but if you’re playing games with plenty of intense graphics it can really make a difference. Mind you, if you already have an iPhone 4 or 4S we don’t think this is really a reason to upgrade.
Sound and vision
If you want to stream YouTube videos you’ll need to download an app from the App Store first. However, when you play them you’ll be subjected to an ugly black border sitting around them. Once you download them they can be stored on the hard drive – 16GB on the basic model, 64GB for the more expensive one. Remember there’s no memory card slot, so you can’t expand on the memory you have, which is worth bearing in mind when you make a buying decision.
Apple’s music app is great – it’s simple to look for songs by an artist, or browse through albums. You can also set up your own playlists easily. Hold the handset in landscape mode and you’ll see a scrollable row of album covers – tap on each to see its track list – a neat touch. As with all iPhones, it’s a pain that you need to use the clunky iTunes to sync the phone with your computer to copy over music and films.
The snapper is pretty much as we’ve seen before. It has an eight-megapixel lens, although it is capable of taking in a bit more light for low-light shots. It made a noticeable difference in pictures we took in the pub, while daytime snaps proved crisp with lifelike colours. Sadly, the lens vibrates when you hit the snapper button and many of our evening shots were blurred. And those low-light images still suffered from graininess – you might as well just use the flash.
One new feature for the iPhone 5’s snapper is the facility for taking panoramic images. It’s already common on Android handsets from the likes of Sony and HTC. Simply pan the handset round to grab a wide screen – ideal for impressive landscapes. It is also possible to take still photos when grabbing Full HD video.
The FaceTime snapper has an increased resolution, so you may want to check the mirror before making your video calls!
Good news for commuters – those leaky earpods have now been improved, so you won’t have to listen to someone else’s choice of music on your ride to the office. The earpods are shiny white and the heads are made of plastic, rather than the soft rubber ends you find in most earphones. They’re a bit hard to fit in the ear and while sound quality is decent – and they don’t leak – they are prone to letting in a lot of external noise; not ideal if you’re on a noisy tube or busy street. The sharp edges made our ears feel slightly tender too.
As we mentioned earlier, the docking connector has been changed to a new design called Lightning. This is a slimmer version that can be put in ether way around. A nice idea but maybe not so enthralling if you’re an existing Apple customer who has already splashed out on accessories and docks with the old connector. Never fear – cough up another £25 and Apple will supply you with a small plastic adapter. And if you’re hoping to hold out for a cheap copy, Apple has seen that one coming and trademarked the technology to stop anyone else copying it. We’re not sure why Apple has seen fit to charge such a large amount for the adapter.
Even though the iPhone 5 packs more power, you’lll still get a day out of a full battery for moderate use – playing a bit of music, taking a couple of snaps, a bit of app play, emailing and texting. But stream a film and your juice will run out in just five hours.
We weren’t that surprised when Apple said its iPhone 5 would be supporting 4G LTE networks in the UK (once they appear). Obviously we can’t try that out as yet, but we are looking forward to those vastly improved download speeds. It’s a shame that the phone doesn’t include NFC support for swapping files and contactless payments though.
Is the iPhone 5 the best iPhone yet? Undoubtedly. But it still is lacking – sure it’s beautifully designed, has a fabulous display and a decent snapper, but it is let down by the ageing iOS 6, iTunes software and the lack of memory card. If you already have an iPhone, the big pricetag and lack of any outstanding new features mean you’ll have little reason to upgrade.
4-inch (diagonal) Multi-Touch Retina display.
1136-by-640-pixel resolution at 326 ppi
16GB, 32GB or 64GB
8-megapixel camera for photos and 1080p HD
FaceTime HD camera for video calls
Up to 8 hours on 3G
Up to 225 hours
Up to 8 hours on 3G, up to 10 hours on Wi-Fi
Up to 10 hours
Up to 40 hours
123.8 mm by 58.6 mm by 7.6 mm
In the box:
iPhone 5, Apple EarPods with Remote and
Mic, Lightning to USB Cable, USB Power
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