Is the iPhone 5 a good phone? Of course it is… a smart evolution of a decent handset is always going to be a quality device.

But is it enough to warrant the fervour of the claims of record sales and "the best thing to happen to iPhone since iPhone"?

To some people it may seem like it's just the iPhone 4S with a longer screen and some fancier earbuds… but to others it's more like the tweaks they've been waiting for to finally warrant upgrading or moving to the iSide.

iPhone 5 review

So with the 4-inch screen, faster processor and all new design, is this the iPhone you've been searching for?

We liked

It's quite hard to dislike an iPhone, no matter whether you love or disdain Apple's ethos. It's just so simple, with a quality screen and a real effort made into the design.

And it's fair to say, rather obviously, that this is the best iPhone ever made. That doesn't mean it's the best phone we've seen, but it's a jolly good effort.

The screen improvement is a real step forward, and the overall speed of the device has been increased to a blistering speed that matches the best the opposition has to offer.

We love the two tone back, and the pigmented glass effect, although the chassis is a little sharp at the edges.

The web browser is as fast as anything we've seen too, as well as the audio performance – and the larger screen makes video viewing better. There's also the very good camera on it, with speedy pics and great quality of snaps… in short, there's not a lot we can fault on the specs, as we're fine not having a quad core chip just for the sake of it.

We disliked

The iPhone 5 isn't without its faults though – it's a handset that suffers from an aging OS that doesn't look very different from when it was launched five and a half years ago.

There are so many tweaks Apple could make to its OS to turn it into more of a powerhouse – icons that update with information, or extending the widgets in the notification bar beyond weather and stocks.

If only developers could add that functionality to apps so you could see updates in the notifications bar (seeing as it won't add anything to the home screen) – but Apple is taking things very slowly on this front.

The closed garden nature of iOS is also irritating, as it means you can't share items to Dropbox without connecting up to iTunes or send files to your friends via Bluetooth.

And then there's the lack of NFC, although we do see Apple's reasons for omitting the technology. It's not quite there yet in terms of market penetration for payments, but the world's largest network of accessories could definitely have made use of it for making ever cooler docks and cases.

Finally, there's the everlasting issue of the iPhone price. We simply cannot see how a 16GB model can cost $199, but to double the memory will cost an extra $100 with no other changes to the design.

iPhone 5 review

And then you look at the contract price – it's far and away the most expensive in the shop, and most of the time you don't even get unlimited data.

There are plenty of other models on the market that are the equivalent of the iPhone 5, such as the Samsung Galaxy S3, HTC One X or the forthcoming Nokia Lumia 920, and none approach the price of Apple's flagship.

Verdict

Is the iPhone 5 the best smartphone ever? If you're an iPhone lover and won't ever leave, without question. It's got a larger screen, a superb new design and generally all the moves required to make it into a worthy evolution.

But as ever we can't get over the price of the iPhone 5, with very little reason to prove that spending all that extra cash brings a tangible benefit.

That larger screen is a little too large to operate properly with one thumb, so we think there was room to make the screen even bigger. If you've played with a 4.5-inch or above phone, you'll get used to the greater space very quickly, so we don't think the iPhone 5 has the optimum screen.

Ultimately, this is an iPhone that underwhelms in terms of specs, but packages it all together in a way that works. The biggest annoyance has come in the way that Apple hasn't re-invented anything, even though we're struggling to think how it could.

But that's Apple's job, not ours. This is a company built on enchantment and magic and excitement over raw spec lists - something like a Liquidmetal body or separate screen on the back would have wowed over "it's a bit thinner."

In terms of our rating, we were torn between 4 and 4.5 stars, as the mixture of poor Maps, sky high price and aged OS is quite a long way from five stars. If we could, we would award the new iPhone 4.25 stars out of five.

The iPhone 5 is the phone that's the minimum users would want in terms of an upgrade, and finding the balance there is something Apple is more adept at than ever. It's a very, very good phone, but there are plenty of other equivalent devices out there that will suck much less cash from your bank account each month that we think you should check out, too.