iPhone 5 (AT&T) review

Blazing fast 4G comes with a few catches from AT&T

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Product features

  • Built-in Memory : 16 GB
  • Rear Camera Resolution : 8 Megapixel
  • Battery Talk Time : 8 Hour
  • Screen Resolution : 1136 x 640
  • Processor Core : Dual-core (2 Core)

View full specification

For

  • Simultaneous talk and data use
  • 4G speeds are lightning fast
  • Good coverage area

Against

  • Being forced into a shared data plan
  • FaceTime over cellular comes with a big catch
  • Expensive, confusing plans

The arrival of Apple's latest and greatest, the iPhone 5, brings about two dilemmas: First, how to cope with that infamously underperforming Maps app, and second, which carrier to choose.

AT&T has a reputation for having a hole or two in its coverage net. Additionally, the carrier is not allowing FaceTime calls over cellular unless customers sign up for a shared data plan (which has all of your AT&T devices pulling from the same allotment of data), making a switch to Verizon or Sprint tempting.

However, sticking with AT&T does have its advantages. Perhaps you're grandfathered in for an unlimited data plan from the early iPhone days, or maybe you just want to use data and voice at the same time - an exclusive feature of AT&T's GSM network.

Well, AT&T customers, should you stay or should you go now?

How does AT&T do?

The good news is that AT&T's LTE is as fast as advertised, and achieves true 4G speeds. Downloads on an iPhone 5 were blazingly fast, when compared head to head with an iPhone 4S in midtown Manhattan.

iPhone 5 ATT review

It was advertised that LTE would be faster than WiFi in some cases. In our tests, this was only partially true. Granted, the average download speed of 10Mbps of the iPhone 5 on LTE was much faster than the 6Mbps produced on the iPhone 4S on HSPA+, but the former was still crushed by a personal WiFi network with 20Mbps download bandwidth.

Uploads were a different story. Again, the iPhone 5's 6 Mbps easily bested the iPhone 4S's paltry 1Mbps. As for a home network, it too could only do a little over 1Mbps uploads.

Talk and surf, simultaneously

Many have stated that AT&T's LTE speeds lag behind Verizon's, despite the smaller coverage footprint (though not by some super significant degree). While such claims are largely anecdotal at this point, and results will vary block by block in almost any circumstance, one can't ignore the advantage that AT&T has long enjoyed over both Verizon and Sprint: the ability to talk and surf the web at the same time.

It's a feature that AT&T is justifiably proud off, and remains a serious source of frustration for the other side. After all, there are more than a few Android handsets on Verizon and Sprint that can allow both functions simultaneously. For many, it's the sole reason stay with AT&T.

Plans & Features

When it comes to paying for such coverage, AT&T users have reason to be upset and confused.

Individual plans start at $39.99 a month for 450 daytime minutes, plus 5000 nights and weekend minutes. On the opposite end of the spectrum is an unlimited plan that has all the daytime, nighttime and weekend talk time that you could want for $69.99. Add $20.00 for unlimited texts.

iPhone 5 ATT review

When it comes to individual data plans, $20.00 will get you a paltry 300MB, with each additional 300MBs worth of data at the same rate. Most new customers will likely gravitate towards the $30.00 a month rate for 3GB, with an additional $10 per GB. Next you have 5GB plus a Mobile Hotspot option for $50.00, which also charges $10 per each additional GB consumed.

But remember, FaceTime over cellular is only available if you sign up for a Mobile Share plan. The baseline package is $85.00, which includes unlimited voice and messaging, but only 1GB worth of data. The plan also only covers just a single line; each additional (up to 10) is $45 a month per iPhone or $10 per iPad.

There's also a $110 per month plan that serves 4GB worth of shared data, with additional lines costing $40, and a $125 per month plan, with additional lines costing $35.00. Not exactly a bargain on any account.

Verdict

The iPhone 5 experience on AT&T is by no means perfect. At the very least, it beats the 4S or any previous iPhone. 4G LTE speeds deliver as advertised.

iPhone 5 ATT review

Still, many longtime AT&T users eager for a change might be tempted by Verizon, particularly the offer of FaceTime sans WiFi and shared data plan, and a much larger LTE footprint. Sprint is a contender as well, and provides much easier to swallow plans, though its coverage is not nearly as wide as the other guys.

As is, it's hard to recommend that AT&T users to stay put, but its one ace in the hole - the ability to maintain a voice call and surf the Internet at the same time - can't be dismissed. Even those with the greatest incentive to leave, i.e. the desire to conduct FaceTime over cellular without being forced into a shared plan, may still want to stay.

Be sure to read TechRadar's complete review of the iPhone 5.

Tech Specs

Product TypeSmartphone
Network BandQuad Band
Input MethodTouchscreen
TouchscreenYes
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
USBNo
Contract TypeSIM-free
Built-in Memory16 GB
Built-in FlashYes
Memory Card SlotNo
Cellular Data Connectivity TechnologyGPRS, EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA, HSUPA, HSPA+
GPS ReceiverYes
Multi-SIM SupportedNo
Integrated TV TunerNo
Product FamilyiPhone 5
Cellular Generation4G
Cellular Network SupportedGSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900, WCDMA 850, WCDMA 900, WCDMA 1900, WCDMA 2100, LTE 700, LTE 850, LTE 1700, LTE 1800, LTE 2100
Multi-touch ScreenYes
Rear Camera Resolution8 Megapixel
Number of SIM Card Supported1
Front CameraYes
Phone StyleBar
ColourWhite, Silver
Operating SystemiOS
Brand NameApple
Battery Talk Time8 Hour
Screen Size10.2 cm (4")
Screen Resolution1136 x 640
Touchscreen TypeCapacitive
Weight (Approximate)112 g
Processor CoreDual-core (2 Core)
Green CompliantYes
Green Compliance Certificate/AuthorityWEEE
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Processor ManufacturerApple
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 4.0
Backlight TechnologyLED
Operating System VersioniOS 6
Messaging TypeSMS (Short Message Service), Email, MMS (Multi-media Messaging Service), iMessage
Pixel Density326 ppi
Height123.7 mm
Width58.7 mm
Depth7.6 mm
Radio TunerNo
Battery Standby Time225 Hour
ManufacturerApple, Inc
Product NameiPhone 5
Processor Speed1.20 GHz
Product LineiPhone 5
Screen TypeLCD
Sensor TypeGyro Sensor, Proximity Sensor, Digital Compass, Accelerometer, Ambient Light Sensor
Manufacturer Part NumberMD298B/A
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.apple.com/uk
Marketing Information

Thin, sleek, and very capable.

It's hard to believe a phone so thin could offer so many features: a larger display, a faster chip, the latest wireless technology, an 8MP iSight camera, and more. All in a beautiful aluminum body designed and made with an unprecedented level of precision. iPhone 5 measures a mere 7.6 millimeters thin and weighs just 112 grams. That's 18 percent thinner and 20 percent lighter than iPhone 4S. The only way to achieve a design like this is by relentlessly considering (and reconsidering) every single detail - including the details you don't see.

Package Contents
  • iPhone 5
  • Apple EarPods with Remote and Mic
  • Lightning to USB Cable
  • USB Power Adapter
  • Documentation