iPhone 5 Review: Is Apple’s Latest Handset Worth Upgrading For?

The Apple iPhone 5 is thinner, lighter, and faster than its predecessors – but is it worth upgrading if you bought the iPhone 4S? Well, that’s what we’re here to find out.

As with anything Apple-related the latest iPhone was the most anticipated handset launch since, well, the iPhone 4S and while the S only offered slight changes to an already proven recipe, the 5 promises somewhat loftier ambitions: a revolution, rather than the usual yearly evolution.

iPhone 5: Build & Design

The most notable changes over last year’s model comes with the design and feel of the phone. It’s a lot thinner, just 7.6mm thick, and it’s lighter weighing just 112grams, which compared to the last version is a significant improvement. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say you could put it in your top shirt pocket and easily forget it was even there.

Despite Apple’s claims that the iPhone 5 in the thinnest smartphone on sale – it’s actually not, that prize goes to the rather obscure Huawei Ascend P1 S. While making the iPhone 5 lighter and thinner, you can’t help but feel its lost a bit of its famed weighty, industrial feel. It’s down to personal preference, but if it were any lighter you’d probably think someone had given you one of those horrible fake display models.

iPhone 5: New Features

Feature-wise the iPhone 5 doesn’t really offer that much over it’s predecessor; there’s 4G support, which unless you really ahead of the curve isn’t widely available in the UK and is only just going into testing as we speak. If you plan to upgrade now, you might want to hold off as there’s no guarantee that O2’s, Vodafone’s or Orange’s networks will even support the iPhone 5 4G frequency.

The phone will of course work on Everything Everything’s newly formed network, but the rest are yet to nail down their service so it’s not guaranteed to work.

Other new features you’ll find on the iPhone 5 include Passbook, which is a new proprietary app that bundles all your tickets, boarding passes and other important travel documents into one handy place. Unfortunately its up to the individual companies to get the service working and, at the time of writing, Luthansa were the only company that offers a ticket-less system via the app – but you can expect more to jump on board within the next 6 months and beyond.

Elsewhere you find the new 30-pin connector, which is a marvel of design and engineering. Sure you’re going to have to shell out £25 a pop to get adaptors for your old kit, but the new design makes connecting your device and absolute breeze especially as you can put it in upside down.

Other subtle changes sees the headphone jack moved from the top to the bottom, which is a bit annoying when you hold the phone in your hand – but considering your getting something lighter and thinner, an oddly placed headphone jack is hardly a game changer.

iPhone 5: The Screen

Where Apple does offer something genuinely revolutionary is the screen. When we say revolutionary we, of course, mean for Apple, and not in general. Gone is the trusty 3.7-inch screen that served millions well for years and what has replaced it is a new 4-inch screen.

Now it’s hardly the second coming, but for a company like Apple it’s quite a big deal and while superficially it’s brighter and bigger the new screen represents a double-edged sword: on the whole most apps have been given the extra screen space, but some, however, haven’t and when you start seeing letterboxes or boarders on apps your amazement is quickly replaced by a feeling of being disappointment.

Long-time iPhone users might find the new size a bit weird at first, but once all the apps utilise the extra space you’ll soon be right at home. But compared to the competition you can’t help but feel a 4.3-inch screen would probably have been a better fit. If you want to watch films on your phone any of the competitors will probably serve you better. You can’t help but feel the extra screen size is a bit of tokenism, and not really a revolution.

iPhone 5: Performance

As you’d expect the new iPhone is the fastest iPhone available; apps load quicker, video looks smoother and video and imaging is substantially faster than before – not that anyone ever complained their iPhone 4S was a slouch.

There aren’t any apps that use any of the extra horsepower – so it’s hard to see any tangible difference, but if you’re a big gamer then you’ll see a big difference when it comes to gaming over the next few months once app developers have tapped the extra power out of the new A6  chip.

iPhone 5: Camera

Apple’s iSight camera remains the same 8-megapixel snapper you’d find in the iPhone 4S, though, it’s been give a couple of significant upgrades when it come to detecting faces, improving image quality in low-light situations, and the speed of capturing images. They’ve made some improvements on the video-compression algorithm, too, which reduces file sizes without diminishing the quality of the video, which is a godsend.

The major improvement to the camera functionality on the iPhone 5 is actually on the front-facing camera. Its been upgraded to a 720p camera, so it makes Skype and Facetime video calls a much more enticing proposition. Elsewhere Apple has added a new Panorama picture mode which produces some stunning results, but bizarrely it doesn’t capture panorama pictures in landscape orientation – which seems a little shortsighted (excuse the pun).

iPhone 5: iOS 6

The iPhone 5 comes with iOS 6 as standard. But, at this point it’s difficult to see where the unique differences are between it running on an iPhone 4S and iPhone 5. New additions come in the form of flyover, turn-by-turn navigation, Passbook, PhotoStream sharing, FaceTime over 3G, VIP Mailboxes, Facebook integration, Do Not Disturb, improved Siri, pre-determined text replies to phone calls and the list goes on – safe to say everything that could have been conceivably improved has been improved – apart from Maps, which putting it kindly is about 5 years behind Google’s now removed service.

iPhone 5: Verdict

There’s no doubt that the new iPhone is the best iPhone Apple has ever made, but after years of tweaking and a fiddling you can’t help but think Apple has begun to run out of ideas. Sure it’s thinner, lighter and faster, but you’d expect that as a given. If you’re looking for something completely revolutionary this isn’t it, and quite rightly too – why would Apple risk changing the recipe of something that is a so popular? It wouldn’t. But now they have the unenviably label as the most boring design team around, they’re essentially the Porsche of the mobile world – but that really isn’t a criticism is it.

The iPhone 5 is out now.

This post was written by:

- who has written 609 posts on UK Gadget and Tech News, Reviews and Shopping.

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