Review: iPhone5 – A Week On

I picked up my new iPhone5 from the Apple Store in Norwich on Saturday, the day after it was launched. In truth I was in two minds whether to bother purchasing the new model, I felt that the ‘new’ iPhone4S was really just a minor improvement to the 4, and if the 5 was the same I was definitely going to give it a miss, or return it quickly.

But I will definitely say reserve judgement until you’ve held one in your hand though, the new hardware design of the iPhone5 is fantastic, almost impossible to believe it has anything inside it its so slim and light.

I deliberately waited until I’d done just over a full week with the phone so I could fully adjust to it, everything feels weird and different the first time you pick it up. But once you adjust to the size and weight of the iPhone5 you won’t be disappointed.

Design

Announced September 12th the new iPhone5 is thinner, lighter and taller than the previous 4/4S model. All of these are small adjustments, but combined they make for a big change when holding and using the 5.

The iPhone5 is taller at 123.8mm (iPhone4S is 115.2mm), the same width 58.6mm and slightly (18%) thinner at 7.6mm (9.3mm for the 4S).

iphone5 white and black models with iphone4s

Weight wise the 4S weighed 140grams while the 5 weighs just 112grams.

iphone5 depth next to iphone4s side on

You can just about make out from the image above how much thinner the new iPhone5 is compared to the 4S behind it – approximately the width of the front panel of glass.

The chassis is now entirely made of aluminium with glass on the top and bottom at the rear for the antennae’s.

iphone5 white and black models back comparison

The rear casing makes the phone feel really solid, and even though it feels wafer thin in your hand, it feels sturdy with no flexing or give at all.

At first, holding the iPhone5 felt like holding a toy, the heft of the 4/4S was missing, muscle memory would make you lift it as you would the 4S and the lack of weight would make picking it up feel odd. But this soon went away and after 10 days of use it now feels completely natural and the thinness and weight just feel perfect.

There are reports of the black model scratching for more easily than the the white one, due to the way the paint has been applied. We’ll have to wait a bit to discover if this is really an issue, and how bad it is, but the initial reports seem to suggest you’ll have to treat your iPhone5 more carefully than the 4S if you want it to remain in pristine condition.

via forums.macrumors.com

via forums.macrumors.com

Camera

The new iSight camera in the iPhone5 is very impressive, as usual for Apple. There is a new sapphire crystal in the camera, to allegedly give better clarity and provide greater protection against scratching for the lens.

On paper, electronically speaking, there is little specs difference between the cameras of the 4S and 5, as shown on the Apple site, detailed below.

As mentioned previously, iMore did a great photo comparison of the two cameras, and I see no reason to try and improve upon this here, check out their full post for the specifics.

iMore found that although photos on the 5 do look more vivid, this is largely due to the improved display with 44% greater colour saturation. When comparing actual photographs side-by-side you’ll see its a struggle to tell the difference between images taken on the 4S and the 5.

The conclusion? The is a marginal improvement in the photos taken with the iPhone5 over the 4S, but don’t let the camera be your primary reason for upgrading – it isn’t worth it.

The front facing camera has also been updated to support 720p making Facetime calls far sharper – perhaps not the best outcome of some of us!

Lightning Connector

The new dock connector – Lightning – was at first an odd change, but as Apple subsequently explained that the new dock was needed in order to be able to reduce the depth of the phone I forgave the technical change and came to appreciate it.

iphone5 depth next to iphone4s

I can’t over-emphasise the benefit of being able to plug the lightning connector in either way up. My phone charges by my bed at night, if I need to get up in the night I tend to take my phone with me as a soft non-intrusive light source, and putting it back on charge when I get back is now simple, whereas before it would often take 2 or 3 attempts to get the 30-pin dock connector seated.

Battery

Apple claimed the battery life was better than the iPhone4S – and like most people I always take manufacturers statements on battery life with a pinch (or table spoon) of salt.

Its hard to directly compare as my iPhone4S was around a year old, so may not have had optimum capacity remaining, however its reasonable to assume that a year should be barely scratching the lifetime of a non-replaceable battery unit.

Taking my phone off charge at approx. 7am at 100% after charging overnight, my typical day is fairly heavy on battery life. I have a 30minute commute to work, during which my iPhone is connected to my car stereo via Bluetooth and playing podcasts. I average about 45-60minutes call time during an average day, and have 5 emails accounts configured, 2 of which have push delivery on via EAS. There is the usual social activities on Twitter and Facebook and Foursquare throughout the day, along with occasional maps and GPS usage. I use Downcast to listen to my podcasts and this checks my entire feed at least twice during the day, more than often directly downloading a new episode from my 20+ subscriptions directly to the phone.

By the time I leave work at 5pm I’m usually at 20-18% and then I have the 30minute commute home again listening to podcasts over Bluetooth, and basically by about 7pm the phone needs to be put on charge or it will power off.

With the iPhone5 and the exact same scenario, I finish the working day at about 40% and get to bed around 11pm with still over 20% remaining.

So completely un-scientific, but the performance of the iPhone5 battery is definitely an improvement over the 4S.

Screen Size

Every phone Apple has produced so far has had a 3.5” display, going back to the original iPhone in 2007, so many felt a larger display was long overdue.

And Apple didn’t disappoint (finally) introducing a larger 4” (diagonal) widescreen Multi-Touch display running at 1136×640-pixel resolution at 326 ppi with a full 16:9 aspect ratio.

In practice this gives you space for an extra row of icons on the homescreen. Non-updated Apps sit in the middle of the screen, with a black bar at the top and bottom of the display. Updated Apps can take advantage of the new real estate in different ways, many simply expanding the middle of the App and retaining the same top and bottom action areas. So typically you get more ‘information’ or more scrolling within your Apps – more emails per view, more tweets per view etc.

Only one App has so far notably made a change to the way it functions to take advantage of the additional space, the Djay App reworked its layout to show two turntables on the screen, rather than having to switch between them as on the iPhone4S version.

Image via: The Verge

Hopefully we’ll see more developers use their ingenuity to do something better with this additional space than just expand the middle section of their App.

Top Screen Accessibility

One issue with the taller iPhone5 is reaching to the top of the new display with your thumb. Obviously this varies with hand size, and for me while I can reach the top of the display, its a noticeable stretch compared to the 4S. For people with small hands, it might be a struggle to hold the phone one handed and access the top.

Because of this, I think its likely we’ll see an increase in key navigational elements at the bottom of the display, rather than an equal split top and bottom like the majority do now.

4G

The iPhone5 in the UK supports 4G on the 1800Mhz spectrum. In practice this gives you two options if you want to make use of 4G on your new iPhone. EE have confirmed 4G availability from October 30th in 8 cities, adding more each quarter, and Three have a small chunk of 1800Mhz they will use for their own 4G service, although launch isn’t until some point in 2013.

O2 and Vodafone have still to buy their 4G spectrum in the Ofcom auction which will be sometime around Christmas, but even when available it will be on frequencies unsupported by the iPhone5, although the future iPhone6 will likely fully support them. If you just picked up a contract iPhone5 on O2 or Vodafone, 3G is the best you’re going to get.

In Summary

Again, there is no perfect phone for everyone, and more and more the decision about which device to get are influenced by which platform your media is linked to – if you have a large existing iTunes library then iOS devices are your logical choice, if you have bought a load of Google Play media, then you’re really in the Android boat.

However, there has been no big shift in the balance of power. The iPhone5 is still one of the top 2 best phones currently available, edging into second place in my opinion the Galaxy S3 handset from Samsung. I’m biased as I’m not a fan of the massive displays that are becoming de rigueur in phones at the moment, I wouldn’t have been particularly upset if the iPhone5 was thinner and lighter with the same 3.5” display, but I can’t deny the extra space and 16:9 AR is better suited for YouTube and other videos.

To curtail my thoughts, I said if you weren’t due an upgrade anyway, don’t go out of your way to get an iPhone4S over the 4. I did go out of my way to get an iPhone5, buying it SIM free direct from Apple, and 10 days on I can definitely say it was worth it.

White v Black

As a final thought, every iPhone I’ve had until now has been the black model, the white ones have always looked cheaper somehow. However having compared the two models in the Apple store, this is the first time ever I’ve opted for a while model. I think it looks fantastic, nicer for me than the black version.

This was before the reports of the black one being more susceptible to scratching, which looks to be the case for many, in which case it was a lucky decision, but I chose it simply because it looked better.

Written By: Rob Gordon

This post was written by Rob Gordon, an IT geek, gadget lover and blogger. Rob has been using the internets since 1994 when the only streaming video was that coffee pot in Cambridge (rip).... Follow Rob on Twitter - @robgordon - about.me/robgordonuk