Apple fans have been waiting a long time for the iPhone 5. Now that it's finally here, does it live up to the hype? After spending a week with the iPhone 5, we offer our thoughts on this highly anticipated device.
At first glance, the iPhone 5 closely resembles the 4 and 4S, but there's more to it. Apple replaced the glass back and stainless steel band with an aluminum case—similar to the MacBook lineup—which made the phone 18 percent thinner and 20 percent lighter. The iPhone 5 is also slightly taller to accommodate the larger 4-inch, 16:9 screen.
When holding the phone, it's quite remarkable how light it feels. Yet it retains the high-quality feel you've come to expect from Apple products, which the company claims are made with the same precision as an expensive watch. The new thin form feels great in your hand and you hardly notice that it's taller. The bigger screen lets you see more content, but it's still usable in one hand.
Drop tests have shown that the 5 is one of the most durable phones, making it ideal for athletes on the go. The testers had to spike the phone to break it. However, the slate black version is susceptible to scratching, which can reveal the silver aluminum underside. We have yet to experience any issues with this, but we don't recommend carrying your keys and phone in the same pocket.
The iPhone 5 includes Apple's new A6 chip, said to be more than twice as fast as the 4S, which was no slouch. These claims were verified in benchmarks, where it was found to be the fastest phone on the market. The greater speed is definitely noticeable in the increased overall fluidity of iOS. Apps load quicker and games play smoother.
Another major speed improvement results from the inclusion of LTE cellular technology, which offers data speeds up to 100 MB/s. In real world tests, we averaged around 10 to 12 MB/s on AT&T's network, which is still probably faster than your Wi-Fi at home. You can instantly show off your highlights on YouTube or quickly find your favorite articles on STACK!
The one knock on LTE is that it kills battery life. This is the main reason why most phones are growing in size, with huge screens—so they can fit a bigger battery. The iPhone 5 actually shrinks in overall volume compared to its predecessor, yet it has better battery life. We had no problem getting a full day of normal use, which is great if you're on a travel team and want entertainment on the bus.
The iPhone 5 retains the same 8MP iSight camera as the iPhone 4S, with a few improvements. It takes clearer pictures in dark settings, and it can snap photos about as fast as you can press the button. If you want to capture a live sport photo, this feature is key. Video mode has a better stabilizer, so your footage isn't as jumpy and you can take photos while recording. This is one of the best cameras in a cell phone, but it does not blow away the competition like the 4S did when it was released.
On the opposite side of the phone lies the FaceTime camera, which is upped to 1.2MP and records 720p video. It is perfect for video chatting with friends in HD or for snapping respectable photos—albeit inferior to the iSight camera.
Apple's white earbud headphones have been basically unchanged since they debuted with the original iPod in 2001. Yes, they came with the product, but they were terrible. With the iPhone 5, Apple has raised the bar with a design that delivers better sound while staying put in your ears. We found them much more comfortable, but they did fall out occasionally while we were jogging. And although they don't match the sound quality or comfort of high-end headphones, their sound quality is significantly improved, with a deeper, more resonant bass.
To accommodate the thin form factor, Apple had to change the design of its standard 30-pin dock connector. Along with the map application, this is one of the more controversial aspects of the new phone. The new Lightning connector is superior: significantly smaller, more durable and reversible, so you don't have to align the connector right side up.
The big issue is that people have spent significant amounts of money on accessories that don't fit the iPhone 5 connector. Apple offers adapters, but they run $29 and $39. We approve the connector upgrade, but a free adapter in the box would have been much appreciated.
Overall, the iPhone 5 is one of the best, if not the best, phones on the market. It blends state-of-the-art design with ultra-modern technology to provide a complete phone package. And it's a great option for athletes because of its speed, durability and camera features.
The iPhone 5 is available on Apple.com for AT&T, Verizon and Sprint in black and white for $199 (16GB), $299 (32GB) and $399 (64GB).
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