The iPhone 5 was the most anticipated Apple handset launch since the iPhone 4. The 4S offered only an incremental, albeit antenna-fixing, upgrade, and the fifth-gen iPhone arrives just as many 4 users’ 24-month contract comes up for renewal.
However, in that time we’ve seen a seismic shift, with competing smartphones offering quality and desirability to match and even surpass the iPhone.
With the big boys tempting users away from iOS with the lure of a slick Android experience as found on the HTC One X and the Sony Xperia T or much-improved Windows Phone interface – step forward the Nokia Lumia 920 – it’s crunch time (sorry) for Cook and co.
But wait a goddamn minute. Statistics don’t lie (usually) and, just as we were putting pen to paper, Apple announced that pre-orders for the iPhone 5 hit two million in 24 hours, spanking its previous record of one million in a day for the iPhone 4 and ensuring that many won’t see their new precious until October.
So, with it clearly hooking the gagging mouths of many, how does it perform as ‘the latest iPhone’ and, crucially, how does it match up against the superphone stars of today?
iPhone 5: Build
Let’s start with the chassis because, let’s face it, that’s the only distinct visible change to differentiate it from its two previous family members. Grasp the frame in your hand and the first thing you’ll notice is the weight; it’s the lightest iPhone ever.
By a long way. At 112g, it’s 20% daintier than the iPhone 4S, 16% less butch than the Samsung Galaxy S3 and 14% lighter than the HTC One X. Reducing the SIM to weency, or ‘nano’, size has helped, minutely, as has making the shell out of anodised aluminium.
The brace of glass strips adorning the top and bottom of the rear give both the black/slate and white/silver models a premium feel but are actually employed to allow an uninterrupted phone signal. No-one wants another antennagate.
Despite Keynote claims, the 7.6mm-deep iPhone 5 isn’t the thinnest smartphone in the world – the Huawei Ascend P1 S, Oppo Finder and ZTE Athena are all sub 7mm – but when the depth is combined with the weight, it feels sufficiently waif-like in the hand.
And we’re not convinced that’s for the good. Of course we want our mobile tech to be light and lithe, but what we’ve loved about previous iGenerations is the weighty, industrial feel, the security of feeling something solid in your pocket (no jokes) and knowing that, if it takes a knock, it’s not going to shatter into a billion plastic pieces.
Don’t get us wrong, it’s a miracle how Apple has shed so much excess podge and millions of people will love the lightweight design, but we preferred the more robust, weapon-like nature of the 4S. A case of Marmite-y opinion, perhaps.
iPhone 5: Features
The four-inch screen, which we’ll come onto in detail shortly, is Apple’s belated nod to the industry trend for bigger displays, and means the iPhone 5 now stands a proud 123.8mm tall – width remains the same at 58.6mm.
The extra screen real-estate is welcome, though smaller-handed iPhone users might struggle to reach the standby button with a forefinger while holding it in a natural position. They might even have to stretch for the extra top row of apps. Just hold it a different way, perhaps.
Because various components have been reduced in size, the headphone socket has been moved to the bottom of the device, which comes with its pros and cons. On the plus side, your phone usually goes in your pocket nose first, which means the headphone cable has a clear run out to your ears.
On the downside, the jutting jack interferes with your hand when holding it ‘upright’. Not all apps will use the gyroscope to flip the screen 180-degrees, either, so you’ll have to get used to that.
The bottom-hugging stereo speakers have also been given a boost, the better to annoy old people on the bus as you rattle out Skream’s latest. Do your own iPhone 4S to iPhone 5 sound comparison and you’ll realise the sound is unquestionably fuller and deeper.
Then there’s the Lightening connector. In our testing, we didn’t find it any quicker for transferring content over a cable but we do prefer the new connector in terms of it being a) smaller and b) reversible.
At the time of writing, the Lightening-to-30-pin adapter wasn’t available – it sure ain’t in the box, and it’ll cost £25 on release – so we haven’t experienced how it will cope with existing docks and accessories but it’s safe to say, things could look ugly.
There are add-ons that simply won’t work with it, either – TomTom’s iPhone car kit, for example. It’s made us realise how many USB-to-30-pin cables we’ve amassed over the years and how, now, they’re all redundant, apart from servicing the new iPad and nostalgic clear outs.
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