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Monday
Oct012012

iPhone 5 Review

The iPhone 5, the best iPhone yet. This has been the line for most of the reviews about this device everywhere. And of course is the best iPhone yet; it is to be expected. But going deep by really using it, is that you can truly say what it is all about.

Below you will see my most important notes and conclusions regarding the iPhone 5.

Design 

The design of the iPhone 5 is simply beautiful. I chose mine white because I had black iPhones since the 3G and I really like the silver back plate of the white iPhone 5.

As I said before in the Hands On, it is really thin. But the real surprise is how light it is. At times feels hollow, like a dummy phone. But I really like it, especially when I have it in my pocket, because I barely notice it.

The 4-inch screen is a delight, more space for placing apps on the home screen, but also apps can display more content.

This screen is taller on the iPhone 5, than the one on the iPhone 4S, meaning is not wider diagonally. The .5 inch difference is extended to the top of the screen, not to the sides, so the iPhone 5 is not wider than the 4S.

This makes handling the iPhone 5 in one hand kind of easy and in some ways brings a similar experience when handling the 4S the same way.

Also, watching videos on landscape orientation is a delight. Definitely a much better experience than doing so on the iPhone 4S.

Apple relocated the headphone jack to the bottom in the same way the iPod Touch had it since its first generation. Before having the iPhone 5 I thought I would hate that design change since I use headphones all the time and I use the auxiliary input on my car radio when I’m driving. 

But it turns out it wasn’t that big of a deal. When I have the auxiliary cable and the Lightning cable connected at the same time, they are all at the bottom of the iPhone instead of having one on the top and one on the bottom, which gives me freedom moving the iPhone on my hand.

Apple also changed the connector of the iPhone. The iPhone 5 uses the new Lightning connector, replacing the “30-pin dock” found on all previous iPhones.

More on the Lightning connector later. 

Performance

The new custom A6 processor really shows up what it is all about in the iPhone 5. Apple said its performance is two times the performance of the A5 on the iPhone 4S, but I think that for the first time Apple was being humble. 

Everything is smoother and faster on the iPhone 5. At least for me, it is quite a difference from the performance you get on the 4S.

Aside from the A6 processor, the iPhone 5 packs 1GB of RAM, which makes a difference and allows for a much better performance when there’s a big number of apps opened. iOS helps here because it handles memory in a good way the iOS devices have never needed much RAM.

Battery 

This is a part that many people were concerned about when the iPhone 5 was announced to have LTE connectivity. In my experience over the last week has been very positive. 

I could go from 8 in the morning until 6pm in the night without the need of charging. But just so I’m clear, I use it for social networking (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), reading, listening to music on Spotify, streaming audio from Stitcher, email (no push), no Bluetooth, no Wi-Fi, and brightness at mid level. 

Those that want to extend the duration can turn off LTE on the Settings, but honestly, who wants to turn off LTE?

iOS

On my iOS 6 review I concluded that it was the best iOS version to date. Certainly more polished, more functional. But I doubt it is what the iPhone 5 needs. With all the power of the A6 processor, 1GB of RAM, bigger screen, iOS 6 feels old.

Apple didn’t go the extra mile to try and bring more functionality on iOS 6. Even some of the apps on iOS 6 don’t display that much more information on the 4-inch screen.

iOS 6 does handle well the way apps that do not support the 4-inch screen are displayed. Even though they don’t look good in the middle of the screen, at least you can use them, contrary to Android devices that need to be supported specifically in order to install the apps. 

Apple’s Maps are also a weakness, but I already said enough on the iOS 6 review. The same goes for Siri, which I think it is time that it offers a lot more.

Call quality, sound

This aspect of the iPhone 5 really surprised me. Apple changed the design so instead of just having two microphones, one that canceled the outside noise, they added a third one on the back of the iPhone between the camera and the LED flash. 

The result is a crisper sound when calling. I ask some of the people I talk to during the review period about the quality of my voice and they said that it was great. Whenever I found myself on environments where there was too much noise, the person in the other end could hear me well and I could hear them much better than with the iPhone 4S.

Aside from call quality, the overall sound through the speakers was very good. It was clearer and higher in overall volume.

Vibration 

This is one of the weaknesses of the new iPhone. Matthew Panzarino of The Next Web couldn’t have said it better; the vibration is loud and “violent overall”. You can really notice it when you are on a call and you receive a notification.

Apple change the vibrator motor and went back to the one found in the iPhone 4. On such a thin device, the vibration with this motor at times feels like it is going to tear it apart. 

Home Button

People wanted Apple to change the home button. They really want it to be touch-based. Apple disappointed them by sticking tithe home button that has been part of the iPhone since 2007. 

Fact is that I found it to be stronger than the ones found in previous iPhones. When pressing it, it feels much sturdier, fixed. It doesn’t feel fragile at all.

Maybe this can be welcome news to those that wanted a different button.

Camera

The camera on the iPhone 5 is not much different than the one found in the 4S; but honestly, you can’t do better than 1080p in video. In still pictures, Apple stayed with 8 megapixels, which I don’t think it’s a bad decision. Going higher in megapixels will not result in better picture quality; it will just mean the photo would be bigger. 

Apple added two new features to the iPhone camera app, which is the ability to take panoramas and the ability to take pictures while recording video.

Panoramas are seamless. Once you open the camera app you click on options and select panorama. Once you start, you move the iPhone to the right in a smooth, uniformed way until the arrow reaches the end or you can click done anytime before.

Try to leave the arrow in the center as you move; if you move the iPhone up the arrow will move, so practice a bit.

Follow closely the arrow as it moves, it will tell you if you are going too fast.

Untitled by Gustavo Franceschini-Roche (GustavoFranceschini-Roche) on 500px.com

Taking still pictures while taking video is straightforward. A camera icon appears while on video mode and you just press it and it will take the pictures.

Software tweaks were made, along with the A6 processor, so the iPhone 5’s camera can take pictures faster, reducing the time between pictures.

Overall quality of the pictures os very good, especially in low light scenarios. The quality of videos and panoramas are just great.

The front-facing camera is now able to shoot 720p video, ideal for videoconference. But shooting still pictures still not that good; at just 1.2 megapixels, the quality of the photos taken with it are not that good and on low-light situations is no good at all.

But did Apple made enough software tweaks to really take advantage of it? I tend to think they didn’t.

LTE

Speed test in Ponce, Puerto Rico

This is one feature on the iPhone 5 that definitely didn’t disappointed. It is what you expect; a really fast network, faster downloads and a fairly good area of coverage. 

My iPhone 5 is from AT&T and I tested the network in various sites around Puerto Rico and got average speeds that range between 22-30Mbps in download up to 10Mbps in uploads.

Lightning Connector

This has been a point of controversy since Apple announced the iPhone 5. Whether functionality won’t be the same or that you just won’t be able to use existing accessories or docks, the Lightning connector wasn’t received well.

In my experience I haven’t miss my other accessories. Sure, I would love to have a battery case for my iPhone 5, just as I had for my iPhone 4, but the battery in the iPhone 5 is very good, so I don’t really need it that much.

When it comes to docks, I only have one for a sound system and for it I can use auxiliary. Sure, I loose the charging convenience, but I just plug the Lightning cable and problem solved. 

It also serves as a reason to use AirPlay speakers even more.

I sure don’t miss the “30-pin dock” one bit; a result of the convenience of having a connector that can be plugged in in any direction.

Conclusion

Best iPhone yet? Absolutely. Is it good enough to jump from the iPhone 4? Of course. Jump from the 4S? If you have to pay full price and there is no problem with you doing so do it, if you can’t pay full price then don’t. 

Will it bring Android users to the iPhone? I doubt it.

The iPhone 5 just works. It sports a great camera, has great performance and battery. LTE connectivity for fast downloads and “tweeting” is like taking a breath of fresh air.

The vibration on the iPhone 5 really bothers me, but then again, you can easily let it go if you don’t think about this as meticulously as I do.

Regarding the Lightning connector, I think that for most people this is not an issue and all will get over it very soon.

The biggest setback I see on the iPhone 5 is actually iOS 6. It works seamlessly with the hardware, which is something Apple does pretty good. But in my opinion it feels old. More functionality would have been great.

But don’t let this fool you; the iPhone 5 is one of the best available smartphones, if not the best.

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