Apple iPhone 5

The changes to iPhone 5 and iOS will be appreciated by current users of the iPhone, but Apple's rigid design principles may have many looking to the alternatives.


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CNET Editor

Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies. Twitter: @Joseph_Hanlon


Apple makes itself an easy target. For all its bluster, its secrecy, its aloofness, its promises of magic and revolution; it's easy to fall into the trap of loving or loathing the company, what it stands for and, most importantly, its products. But when you strip back all the hype and hyperbole, the iPhone 5 is still a smartphone like any other, and we've tried to review it as such.

Design

A lot has been said about this design already and yet, there are still a few surprises we noticed when we first unpacked the box. It is noticeably lighter than the 4S, which you can feel as soon as you pick it up. It's slimmer too, though, this change is hard to spot. And of course, it's longer; as though someone at Apple took last year's phone and ran a rolling pin over it in the Apple staff kitchenette.

iPhone 5 is longer, but not wider.
(Credit: CBS Interactive)

It's longer, but not wider. This decision was made, apparently, so that the iPhone could be used in a single hand. Apple succeeds at this, but misses an opportunity to add screen real estate to core elements of the phone. In particular, the onscreen keyboard in portrait mode is the same size as before, and for some, this is too small to be used comfortably. It is interesting that Apple has maintained this distinction between its phone and the other top-tier Android models, offering a real alternative to users who don't want a large screened device.

The new aluminium and glass chassis is striking — definitely one of the better refinements of Apple's design. And, for the first time in several years, the black version of the iPhone looks better than the white, with a sleek metallic blue hue when the light strikes it at certain angles.

(Credit: CBS Interactive)

It's not a more comfortable design than the 4S, unfortunately, so that while it certainly looks nicer, it is still cold in the hand, with sharpish corners that sit at angles against your skin. Not that these edges are like knives in your hand, but most of the other top-tier releases this year have had a great, curved ergonomic design that the iPhone lacks.

If you've owned an iPhone in the past, you'll notice that the headphone socket has moved to the bottom of the phone, next to the new Lightning port. Though we have problems with the ramifications that changing the USB port will have for users, especially for people with older accessories, we do agree that the new Lightning connector feels more secure than the old 30-pin jacks, and we love that there is no right way to insert them.

Performance

Apple's new A6 processor delivers a user experience as seamless as every processor in every iPhone before it. We've come to expect silky smooth performance when using an iPhone, and this is no exception. Comparatively, there is a performance boost over the iPhone 4S in tasks like launching applications, but the difference is barely worth measuring.

Battery life is solid on the iPhone 5, especially stand-by power. You can leave the iPhone sitting with the screen turned off for days without the battery draining to zero. We attempted a continuous video playback battery test using the same 720p video file we use on all new Android phones, and the iPhone 5 scored about seven and a half hours. This result isn't as direct a comparison as we'd have liked, due to the looping app we have access to not scaling the video to the full screen size of the new phone. This meant that the video played with large black pillar boxes, giving the iPhone the advantage of not having to power the extra pixels. But, it is a very respectable result, nonetheless.

The major hardware milestone to consider in this release is the welcome addition of 4G data speeds. In Australia, you have 4G options with both Telstra and Optus, and after trying the iPhone 5 on both, we definitely recommend considering a 4G network for the iPhone. In speed tests, we saw a peak download of 61Mbps on the Optus network, and an average of about 20Mbps on both, and while it's pointless saying one is better than the other at this early stage, it is a major advantage for Optus and Telstra until Vodafone launches a similar network next year.

Adding to this, the iPhone's Safari browser remains one of the faster smartphone browsers available, and paired with 4G speeds, the results are impressively quick.

Camera

On paper, Apple may seem to have made only small changes to the iPhone camera, but in practice, this feels like a brand new shooter. The camera is lightning fast, taking pics just as soon as you hit the button, and the results are often superb. Colours are vivid and well produced, and the level of detail captured is impressive.

The iPhone has a few new photography tricks up its sleeve, too. For starters, you can now take a photo while shooting a video, even at 1080p resolution, which is a handy feature that we think loads of people will find a use for. You can also shoot panorama pics, which is easy to do and the results tend to be pretty sharp.

A photo using the new panorama feature.
(Credit: Seamus Byrne/CNET)

(Credit: Joe Hanlon/CNET)

(Credit: Joe Hanlon/CNET)

iOS

When it boils down to it, Apple vs. Android wars aside, the real reason to choose an iPhone over an Android phone, or not, is iOS. Apple's operating platform is fantastic for many dozens of small reasons, but it is its uniformity that makes it feel so accomplished. After reviewing nearly four-dozen Android phones and tablets this year, it is impossible to deny how nice it is to use a system where every app, regardless of its origin, has the same visual elements and the same polish.

A wider iPhone may have made this keyboard easier to use.
(Credit: CBS Interactive)

All that said, there is plenty about iOS that we don't love, most of which boils down to the fact that when we don't like something, however small, we can't change it. We mentioned the keyboard earlier; speaking of it being too small. This is a great example of a part of the iOS experience that we would love to have the freedom to customise. The Swype app that you find on a number of new Android phones is fantastic, and it isn't a win for Google or Android necessarily, but for the freedom that users have to make choices about what they like and how they like to use these tools. If you don't like the homescreen the way Samsung designs it — you can replace it. If you want extra functionality in the SMS app or you'd prefer your web browser to offer specific functionality, you can find alternatives in the Google Play store. With iOS, you are too often hemmed into the Apple experience, which is not always the best.

Also, we still struggle with the fact that you can't access the iPhone's storage as a mounted drive over USB, and that file transfers mostly take place using iTunes as an intermediary. We now use our phones as mini computers, and really expect to have full and easy access to the data stored on them. In light of this, Apple's approach to file management is draconian.

Beyond the basics, there is the widely reported issues with Apple's new Maps app. Designed to replace Google Maps in iOS, the best way to describe Apple Maps is as a work in progress. Everyone we've spoken to about it has been able to bring up a new error that they or friends have spotted, and we can only guess that it will take a long time before all of these issues are ironed out.

But then, we can't remember the last time a mapping app was such a big deal. It's been a long time since we included Google Maps in our list of pros and cons when writing about Android phones. The same is true here. Yes, Apple Maps is far from perfect, but it is a small part of a broader user experience, and shouldn't be a reason to buy or not buy an iPhone 5, in our opinion. If you need a solid maps and navigation package, go with Android. Otherwise, read on.

EarPods

You're probably not relying on the quality of Apple's headphones to help you decide to buy an iPhone, but the intriguing redesign is worth a side-note. The new design is unlike any headphones we've seen before, and "EarPods" are a perfect descriptor. Compared with other in-ear headphones, the EarPods are remarkably comfortable to wear. They don't suction into your ear the way most others with rubber tips do, and they are light enough to really forget about after long sessions of use.

(Credit: CBS Interactive)

They don't sound amazing in the way their unique designs suggests they might. Playing music through the iPhone, we heard a solid mixed sound, but not one that has the clarity of better in-ear models. The fact that Earpods don't suction into your ear does mean that the sound is a little weaker, overall, and you won't enjoy the highlights of sound in any of the frequencies. Still, for a bundled pair of headphones, they are pretty good.

Overall

If you're a fan of Apple's iPhone and iOS, we think you'll be pleased with the enhancements made to the iPhone design. The new aluminium and glass combination is lovely, the longer screen is a slight improvement and the new hardware delivers a seamless user experience, as always. As a smartphone, the iPhone offers most of what you're looking for.

Apple's rigid design ethos isn't without compromises though, and savvy users are recommended to consider the alternatives. Apple's design focuses on looks rather than ergonomics, iOS is mostly uncustomisable, and connectivity expansions, like HDMI and SD cards, are available only through expensive Apple-designed adapters. Apple probably believes that these are compromises that most users will live without, and in most cases, this might be true. We just wish we could have more of a say in how we use this phone, and we think experienced tech consumers will feel the same.



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Post comment as
 

HasanM posted a comment   
United Kingdom

SPECIAL OFFER AVAILABLE THIS YEAR ! :

If you will buy 3 units you will get 1 product for free ( at your choice ). You will pay for 3 units and you will receive 4 units.

( Call

 

HasanM posted a comment   
United Kingdom

SPECIAL OFFER AVAILABLE THIS YEAR ! :

If you will buy 3 units you will get 1 product for free ( at your choice ). You will pay for 3 units and you will receive 4 units.

( Call

 

"mistake"

JodyA posted a comment   
United States

The Good:touch idea

The Bad:mostly evetything else

Ivery disappointed poor battery efficiency , Siri often goes off and does what ever, sound in receiving and sending distorted, hard to make tactile commands. Not again esp for $200.00 in addition to the minimal $80.00 p/m service fee w/Verizon

EthanD Facebook
10
Rating
 

"Minidigital is the perfect place for iphone device."

EthanD posted a review   

I went on a vacation with my friends to Australia. Me and my friends went to hotel where we were having a good time nearby swimming pool by mistake my apple iphone dropped in the swimming pool. Until I catch it out, it was completely damaged from water.
Someone suggested Minidigital iphone service which was nearby my hotel. A kind man on reception listens to my problem and submitted my damaged iphone. Next day I got a Minidigital service man in my hotel room with a parcel and my iphone was in it. Until I made sure that It is working properly the service man stayed there. Within just one day I found I my Apple iphone back. Really Minidigital made my trip awesome and I would appreciate

LiamD2 Facebook
10
Rating
 

"Apple Iphone 5"

LiamD2 posted a review   

The Good:everything

The Bad:nothing

I love everything about the iphone 5. The 4g lte coverage, the super-fast a6 chip, siri, 4 inch retina screen.
I think the iphone 5 is the perfect balance between design and specs and if you wanted to upgrade to the latest smartphone, get the iphone 5!

ldale7
5
Rating
 

"Iphone 5"

ldale7 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:siri, IOS 6 preinstalled, 4-inch retina display

The Bad:not user-friendly, app store, breaks easily

This is a average phone. I have tried the Iphone 5 in Telstra and optus and it just doesn't seem the right phone for me. I like the fact that it comes preinstalled with siri and IOS 6 but I feel that Android or windows phone has a lot more to offer when it comes to social network intergration, applications and user-friendly interface.

ldale7
5
Rating
 

"Iphone 5"

ldale7 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:siri, IOS 6 preinstalled, 4-inch retina display

The Bad:not user-friendly, app store, breaks easily

This is a average phone. I have tried the Iphone 5 in Telstra and optus and it just doesn't seem the right phone for me. I like the fact that it comes preinstalled with siri and IOS 6 but I feel that Android or windows phone has a lot more to offer when it comes to social network intergration, applications and user-friendly interface.

 

Edwin1981 posted a comment   
Hong Kong

I am looking for the large quantities of the brand new iphone 5.
Please contact me: edwin_cyc@yahoo.com.hk

 

NguyenH1 posted a comment   

I google search and find "HelloSPY" app.

Quick Features List

Track Phone Location
Read Phone SMS Remotely
Read Phone Contacts
Read iMessages and Whatsapp messages
See Call History
Track Internet Browsing History
See All Photos Captured
Record Apps Usage
Auto Answer
Back Up

 

GavinV posted a comment   

Oh , and as for competing with the wde red lolipop phones. .
Just get a keyboard. see it here
http://9to5mac.com/2013/01/02/iphone5mod-launches-magnetic-hybrid-game-controllerkeyboard-for-iphone-5/

Who uses a screen keyboard in portrate anyway.


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User Reviews / Comments  Apple iPhone 5

  • HasanM

    HasanM

    "SPECIAL OFFER AVAILABLE THIS YEAR ! :

    If you will buy 3 units you will get 1 product for free ( at your choice ). You will pay for 3 units and you will receive 4 units.

    ( ..."

  • HasanM

    HasanM

    "SPECIAL OFFER AVAILABLE THIS YEAR ! :

    If you will buy 3 units you will get 1 product for free ( at your choice ). You will pay for 3 units and you will receive 4 units.

    ( ..."

  • JodyA

    JodyA

    "Ivery disappointed poor battery efficiency , Siri often goes off and does what ever, sound in receiving and sending distorted, hard to make tactile commands. Not again esp for $200.00 in addition ..."

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