|Style & Handling|
Pros: Desirable Apple design; speedy performance; will be able to support 4G; large screen producing rich, deep colours; impressive camera; a more helpful Siri.
Cons: a costly handset; lacks a slot for memory cards; doesn’t feel robust; iOS 6 feels a bit old now, and the Maps app has proving to be hilariously full of bugs.
Verdict: Apple has come up trumps with the iPhone 5. We can’t say the same for iOS 6, which lacks any new interesting features. However, the phone itself makes up for that. It looks highly desirable, albeit more fragile than we’d like, and we love the roomy 4-inch Retina display. Apple still hasn’t included a memory card slot. And the price tag is eye wateringly expensive.
Apple’s latest offering, the iPhone 5, arrived to mixed reviews. There was praise for Apple, for the best iPhone it has created so far, especially the larger screen. Its slimmer body won plaudits too. But for others, it just didn’t go far enough, feeling that the iPhone lacked that extra feature that would have made it a must-have.
What no-one questioned though was the right for Apple to sit this phone at the peak of its iPhone tower. This is Apple’s best smartphone so far. Is that enough though to make it worth splurging out a substantial wedge of cash? The most basic version, the 16GB phone, costs £529, while you will be looking at £699 for the 64GB version.
If you’ve already got an iPhone the first thing you’ll notice with this model is the shape. It is noticeably longer and thinner. Like if someone took the iPhone 4S and carefully stretched it outwards. According to Apple, it is 18% slimmer than its predecessor, and lighter at 112g. This fits it nicely in with the newer Android smartphones. By comparison, older iPhones feel heavy and bulky.
The screen is longer, but that’s not the only change on the front. The iPhone 5’s FaceTime camera has also moved, to a more central position. The sides might be thinner, but you’ll still find the volume and mute keys on the left edge, with the SIM card slot on the right.
However there are three important differences. First, the earphone port has been moved to the bottom of the iPhone. A simple enough change, but one that makes a big difference in use when slipping the phone in and out of pockets while listening to music. Second, Apple has revamped its docking port. Now branded as ‘Lightning’ it has also been slimmed down.
Third, the iPhone 5 uses the new ‘Nano SIM’ cards, and only those cards. These ultra tiny cards are even smaller than the existing Micro SIMs. That’s almost as small as most specks of dust. We’d question how necessary this is, given that it means you will have to get a new card from your supplier. An extra hassle if you’re buying this SIM-free.
Turn it over and you’ll find alterations on the rear as well. Previous iPhones had the one-piece glass while the iPhone 5 has gone for an aluminium back with two thin strips of glass top and tailing it. Maybe metal scuffs more easily but this looks so fabulous we can’t resist it. If only we could get a case to protect this more fragile phone that allows us to still show off its rear.
First off, the 4-inch stretched screen is bigger than previous versions, and that’s a plus on its own. All that extra space is very welcome indeed. But we loved the iPhone 4S’s Retina display. Is this as good? In short, yes. The screen is sharp, not surprising really as it has the same 326-pixels per inch. Photos look stunning, realistically reproduced with deep, vibrant colours and excellent colour saturation levels. Compared directly with the iPhone 4S, images have deeper, bolder colours and a more vivid contrast.
However, there’s simply not a lot of apps supporting the larger screen at the moment. An app or game that doesn’t support this size will show black borders. A supported app or game will instead stretch the image.
We can’t fault the brightness or the viewing angles of the screen though. The more accident prone might have wanted some toughened glass or at least a little bit of extra protection. As far as we could tell, there’s no extra durability in the screen than you get with the iPhone 4S. Another reason to encase the handset in a protective cover as soon as it is out of the box.
Movies and media
A YouTube app is missing from iOS 6, so therefore you’re not going to get it on the iPhone 5 either. It can be downloaded from the App Store though, but as it doesn’t support the larger screen video clips play with that unattractive black border. As there’s the 16GB hard drive, or 64GB if you want to pay more, videos can easily be downloaded and stored. But again, Apple still isn’t including a memory card slot, so there’s no room to expand the memory.
As always, the music app works really well. It is as easy as ever to browse albums, search for songs and set up playlists. With the phone held horizontally, you can scroll through a row of album covers. Tap on one to view the track list. A basic feature but a pretty neat one. When it comes to syncing the iPhone 5 with a computer for moving movies and music across, you are obliged to use iTunes. This is a sticking point for us, as iTunes is still not ideal with its tendency to crash, intermittent slowness, and endless updates.
There’s a nice boot in performance with the iPhone 5, thanks to Apple using its latest A6 processor. It doesn’t make that much difference when performing tasks like browsing the web, looking through desktops, or using simple apps. But load up some intensive games like The Dark Knight Rises and you’ll instantly notice the difference. This took 44 seconds to load on the iPhone 4S. The iPhone 5 shaved 10 seconds off that, loading it in just 34 seconds.
A minute difference on the intro, but it all adds up during game play that has lots of cutscenes, especially when you’re trying to get in a quick bit of play between bus stops. This isn’t enough on its own to make a 4 or 4S owner need to upgrade though. And especially as you’re not about to get outdated – most iOS game developers ensure games are compatible with as many iPhone models as possible.
While it is faster, the iPhone 5 doesn’t chew through battery power. It lasted a full day with moderate use such as a little bit of app use, texting, emailing, music playback, and a few photos snapped. However, once you start streaming video the power just leaks away. We found our iPhone 5 was out of juice in five hours when the screen was on maximum brightness. Rivals to the iPhone 5 have managed six or seven hours in our experience.
The iPhone 5’s camera is one feature that hasn’t changed much. You still get an 8 megapixel lens, and overall the technology seems to match the iPhone 4S’s camera. We did find though that the lens managed better in low light situations such as evening shots or dim interiors. There was also an appreciable improvement in brightness levels when comparing shots taken inside side by side. Overall, outside photos appeared crisp, realistic, with good colour depth and contrast.
On the downside, pressing the virtual camera button causes the phone’s lens to wobble. We noticed this with the 4S but didn’t see it as a problem in the photos taken. Not so with the 5. Even shots often came out blurred. The lens did help increase the brightness in interior shots, making them clearer, but still overall there’s that grainy look. It is just better to keep using the flash.
There is one new feature in the camera app for the iPhone 5. It can now take panorama shots. Nearly all its Android competitors can do this, including HTC, Sony and others. Here it has been integrated well into the camera’s software. All you have to do is pan the phone from left to right, and the shot is captured in wide screen. This is particularly ideal for stunning scenery, or large crowd shots. In addition, the iPhone 5 can now snap photos at the same time you’re filming in full HD mode, made possible now there’s an increase in the camera’s resolution.
Another change was rumoured quite some time ago, and even then it created quite a stir. Now it’s here, and that’s the new Lightning connector. Previous Apple connectors were quite wide. For the iPhone 5 though, Apple has slimmed it down, a lot. Plus it has a rather nifty, and useful, new feature. The phone can now be inserted either way up. So if you’re trying to fumble around in the dark, you no longer have to worry if it is the right way up.
If you’re loyal to Apple you’ll likely have a number of Apple docks and other accessories that use the old connector. For £25 you can buy the Apple trademarked plastic adaptor (so no knockoffs, sorry). Given how expensive the iPhone is, it seems churlish for Apple to charge so much for the adapter.
Music to your ears
For years now, we’ve had to put up with Apple’s notoriously leaky earphones. Finally, they’ve been redesigned. So now it’ll be just you listening to your music, and not the entire train carriage. The earpods are glossy and white (as if they’d be anything else). Heads on the earphones are fully plastic.
Overall sound quality is acceptable, and you don’t get any music leaking out around you. However, we weren’t impressed with the fit, which was uncomfortable after a few hours, and found we could hear a lot of noise from around us. Not ideal if you’re travelling on public transport, but possibly a good thing if you’re jogging or cycling and need to listen out for traffic.
And finally ...
The iPhone 5 does support 4G, which will be handy when networks roll out here in the UK, with its greatly increased mobile download speeds. As it stands, we can’t test this feature but it is good that it’s there. The iPhone 5 does lack built-in NFC. This means no contactless payments, or the ability to swap files with other phones.
There is no question at all that the iPhone 5 is the best ever iPhone. But we didn’t doubt that at the start. Is it all that an iPhone could be? Absolutely no. If you’re new to Apple, this won’t matter so much. You’ll still be getting a desirable, stylishly designed smartphone that has an impressive, large screen and an excellent camera. This will be balanced against Apple’s resistance to including memory card support, a less than desirable iOS, and the undesirable iTunes software. For anyone who’s already got an iPhone, there’s little reason to trade your model in for the new one, especially when also balanced against that eye-watering price tag and the lack of truly interesting and innovative features.
|Type of device||Smartphone|
|Operating System||Apple iOS 6|
|CPU||Apple A6 processor|
|Screen size||4 inches|
|Screen type||Retina Display|
|Display type||16.7 million|
|Memory card slot|
|Secondary camera||1.2 megapixels|
|Special camera features||Panorama, Autofocus, Tap to focus video or still images, Face detection in video or still images LED flash Improved video stabilisation, Photo and video geotagging|
|Music player||Audio formats supported: AAC (8 to 320 Kbps), Protected AAC (from iTunes Store), HE-AAC, MP3 (8 to 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Audible (formats 2, 3, 4, Audible Enhanced Audio, AAX and AAX+), Apple Lossless, AIFF and WAV|
|FM Radio description|
|Video player||Video recording, HD (1080p) up to 30 frames per second with audio, FaceTime HD camera with 1.2MP photos and HD video (720p) up to 30 frames per second|
|Games||Downlaod via App Store|
|GPS||Assisted GPS and GLONASS|
|Colors (Standard)||Black and slate or White and Silver|
|Handsfree speaker phone|
|What's in the box||Apple EarPods, Charging adaptor, USB cable, Stereo headset with In-Line Mic and Call control, Quick Start Guide and reference material|
|Talktime||8 hours on 3G|
|Battery life multimedia||Internet use: Up to 8 hours on 3G, up to 10 hours on Wi-Fi Video playback: Up to 10 hours Audio playback: Up to 40 hours|