iPhone 5 review

The new iPhone is here – but is Apple in danger of delivering too little with its latest upgrade?

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Our Verdict

This is the best iPhone yet - but it's evolution again, rather than revolution, in the smartphone game.

Product features

  • Built-in Memory : 64 GB
  • Rear Camera Resolution : 8 Megapixel
  • Battery Talk Time : 8 Hour
  • Screen Resolution : 1136 x 640

View full specification

For

  • Great design
  • Faster speeds
  • Neat UI touches
  • Quality camera

Against

  • High price
  • Aging OS
  • Poor first attempt at Maps
  • Walled garden ecosystem

The excitement of the rumor mill, the titillation of every leaked photo led to higher than ever levels of expectation for the iPhone 5, and while the announcement was greeted with some derision at the lack of perceived headline improvements, the record sales tell an entirely different story.

Given the underwhelming changes to the iPhone 4S, the iPhone 5 really needs to re-energize customers to prove Apple can repeat the game-changing trick it managed with the iPhone 4.

So is the Apple iPhone 5 the greatest smartphone ever, one that will finally see Apple ascend to the top spot in our 20 best mobile phones chart? Or is it a case of too little, too late?

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Design

We'll begin in the traditional manner: how the thing actually feels in the hand. With the iPhone 5 there will be many types of prospective buyer: the upgrader from the 4 (or more-money-than-sense iPhone 4S upgraders), those tired of their Android handset and those taking their first steps in the smartphone market and want to get one of them iThingies their friend/child has.

iPhone 5 review

Well, all of those picking up the iPhone 5 will have the same reaction: this thing is amazingly light. You've probably heard the numbers by now (20 percent lighter than the predecessor, as well as beating most of the opposition too at 112g.)

It's an odd sensation, but it actually detracts from the experience when you first pick it up. We've praised the weighty feel of the iPhone in the past, lending it a premium feel in the face of toy-like phones, and it's almost disappointing that Apple decided to join that clan.

iPhone 5 review

However, through extended use this problem quickly disappears, as the overall effect of the phone is still a chassis designed for strength, it just sits more anonymously in the pocket.

iPhone 5 review

You'll obviously see the change in height, too – the iPhone 5 stands 4.87-inches tall to allow for the larger 4-inch screen. In truth, those not familiar with the iPhone 4S probably wouldn't notice the difference, which is why it's a good move from Apple to include the larger screen if it's not going put people off that hate larger phones.

iPhone 5 review

The decision to stick at 4-inches is Apple's admission that while it recognizes people are all over the idea of having more screen real estate to play with it doesn't want to move away from the thumb-friendly nature of the device.

Through a mixture of moving the centre of gravity slightly as well as repositioning the screen within the bezel, it's still possible to scroll your thumb mostly around the whole display one-handed, which Apple is clearly keen to keep hold of.

iPhone 5 review

However, we're not convinced of that argument any more, and the power button was still a little out of reach when using the phone normally, as was anything in the top left-hand corner of the screen.

This was no issue in reality, as scooting the phone down a bit in the palm is a natural action. But if that's the case, then why not offer a 4.3-inch screen at least?

There's more to a phone than a screen these days (although increasingly less and less) and the general construction of the iPhone 5 is excellent to say the least.

iPhone 5 review

We've tested both the ceramic white version and the anodized black, and the two-tone effect on the back of the phone is stunning, both visually and under the finger.

It doesn't beat the sheer beauty of the HTC One S, with its micro-arc oxidized back and rounded lines, but it's looking good in second place.

iPhone 5 review

The two sections of pigmented glass at the top and the bottom of the phone add a pleasant effect, and the sapphire glass is meant to be thoroughly durable, to complement the Gorilla Glass on the front.

Apple knows consumers get furious when they drop an iPhone, and is clearly seeking to stop the smashes before they happen with a tougher exterior - although it seems the anodized black version is more prone to scratching, which means, sadly, you'll have to think about getting a cover for that beautiful frame.

The same industrial band around the outside is in effect again as on the iPhone 4 and 4S, with small sections removed where the antenna joins.

Apple has gone for a more advanced form of antenna here, meaning the days of lost signal are gone, and generally increasing the power of your call connection and GPS lock on, too.

iPhone 5 review

There are other big design changes here as well: the headphone jack has moved to the bottom of the phone, and the iconic 30-pin connector has been retired in favor of the new Lightning port, giving a headache to all those that have invested in chargers, docks and other accessories over their iPhone lives.

You can buy an adaptor, but it's going to be pricey: $30 when it lands in October. And unless you want to keep it permanently attached to the bottom of your iPhone 5 you'll need to buy a few, which is far from ideal.

However, let's not harangue Apple too much for this: a smaller connector is not only easier to use (you can plug the smaller cable in either way round, and the connection feels more solid), but you're rewarded with a thinner and more compact phone to boot.

iPhone 5 review

The decision to move the 3.5millimeter headphone jack to the bottom is an odd one, as while it allows you to slip the phone into the pocket head-first when listening to music, which is a more natural action, it's a real pain in the posterior for some apps that will only work in landscape a certain way up.

Using it this way means your headphones experience will be one of having to jiggle the jack around two fingers.

It's not the most comfortable way to hold a phone, and even when using the phone in portrait mode, the jack gets in the way somewhat.

There are other smaller design changes to the iPhone 5 too, such as the iSight front-facing camera moving to the middle and the home button being noticeably more robust to help reduce instances of a broken portal to your home screen.

iPhone 5 review

But enough about what the phone looks like - the killer question is how the thing feels in hand. We'll sum it up by saying this: smooth. It's a little slippery, and we were always worried we would drop the darn thing.

But that's the only negative thing about the design (apart from the low weight initially) as it sits in the palm nicely and allows you to do it all with one hand, including hitting the top-mounted power/lock button with ease.

That lock button is actually still loose, as it was on the iPhone 4S, meaning when you shake the phone around you can hear it clicking away, which undoes a lot of the premium feel Apple is going for.

Make no mistake, the iPhone 5 is one of the most beautifully crafted phones out there - but when you're paying $199 up front for the thing, we'd hope this would be the very minimum Apple would do.

iPhone 5 review

And while it looks nice, from the front it doesn't really add much to the design of the iPhone - it's certainly not the same as the jaw-dropping design of the iPhone 4 compared to the 3GS... it's just another evolution in the iLine. It's not bad, but for those that hoped the iPhone 5 would be another big change there's a good chance they'll be disappointed about the look... until they feel the lovely back.

There was a real chance here for Apple: remove the bezel and give the front of the screen a look that's similar to the OLED TVs from the likes of Samsung or LG… but instead we're treated to the same lines as before.

You always get the feeling that Apple saves what it can for the next iteration of the iPhone, and while there's nothing wrong with the current construction we can see the edge-to-edge screen becoming something amazing on the iPhone 6.

Tags

Tech Specs

Product TypeSmartphone
Network BandQuad Band
Input MethodTouchscreen
TouchscreenYes
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
USBNo
Contract TypeSIM-free
Built-in Memory64 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
ColourSlate, Black
Operating SystemiOS
Brand NameApple
Battery Talk Time8 Hour
Screen Size10.2 cm (4")
Screen Resolution1136 x 640
Touchscreen TypeCapacitive
Weight (Approximate)112 g
Green CompliantYes
Green Compliance Certificate/AuthorityWEEE
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Processor ManufacturerApple
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, Accelerometer, Digital Compass, Ambient Light Sensor, Proximity Sensor
Manufacturer Part NumberMD662B/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