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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Apple has based its whole iPhone ideal on the success of the iPod, deciding it wanted to make inroads into that area while combining it with the power of the phone at the same time, all the way back in 2007.

iPhone 5 review

To that end, music has always been at the heart of the iPhone design, and it's still good these days. It's actually changed remarkably little in terms of interface, and while that might be a criticism to some parts of the platform, in this case it's actually rather good.

There's also a strong emphasis on video too, which is again relatively unchanged... although we'd like to see that updated in all honestly to incorporate some more advanced features.


Audio-wise, the iPhone 5 is close to the best out there. Sound is rich and balanced, and the overall effect is clean, easy to listen to and isn't muddied by any emphasis on certain areas of the hearing spectrum. You can access the player in a variety of ways, from the Music app on the home screen (traditionally in the dock at the bottom) to double tapping the home button and swiping right.

And if you're on the lock screen, a double tap will also call up the music player, as well as showing album art on the screen.

Navigation through your tracks is pretty darn easy, too - you've got very few buttons to mess around with on the player, with the little slider buttons coming with a very "Apple-esque" reflection that moves as you tilt the phone.

iPhone 5 review

We suggest you keep this trick hidden to those that mock iPhone owners as it will be like gold dust to them. We can just hear it now: "Look at the shiny reflecting thing when I tilt my phone!" "Yeah, but it can't make PHONE CALLS, can it? Hur hur derp" "You've always hated me, haven't you?"

There's the familiar Cover Flow option too, should you decide to turn the phone sideways, but it's curiously got a slight shudder to it that we haven't seen before. That aside, it's a joy to jump through tracks, and tapping on any album will show the track listing.

We do wish that you could long-press on tracks to add them to a playlist, or were able to swipe on the song cover art in the main player to change tracks - these are areas where iOS 6 is starting to show its age.

There are a number of extra services accessed through the Settings app (don't get us started again) and these include shake to shuffle (turn it off straight away if you ever walk and listen to music) and the more useful EQ and Sound Check settings to improve the quality of your audio... and it really works too.

We also like the efforts made to protect your hearing, with the option to limit your volume level to healthy standards and the fact the on screen volume control will start to turn red when it gets too loud... after that, you're choosing to damage your ears.

Overall the iPhone 5 music player is a very, very good music player that doesn't add any bells or whistles to a competent package.

iTunes Match

Apple is also chucking in iTunes Match to give you access to your library on the go... well, we say chucking in, but you have to pay $24.99 for the year to do so. It will take your existing library, scan it, and improve the quality and make it available to stream wherever you are.

iPhone 5 review

It's not a new service, but it helps those limited to the 16GB version, and don't want to fork out for the 32GB or 64GB versions.

While we're on the subject, can someone explain why it costs so much extra to get a larger capacity of flash drive on a iPhone 5?

Given a microSD card (which obviously can't be inserted into the iPhone 5) is a fraction of that cost, how can Apple get away with charging that much more to be able to store more apps and movies on a phone?

We get that consumers don't always need expandable storage, but to charge such a premium is a little harsh.


With greater size comes... wait, we've made that "joke" already. There's a larger screen on the iPhone 5, thus movies look better. That's that covered.

iPhone 5 review

We jest again. The larger screen is a great thing for watching movies compared to the iPhone 4S, as it allows you to see 16:9 videos the way they were supposed to be viewed.

It still puts black lines above and below the 21:9 movies, but this is common across most smartphones, and it's at least better than the ludicrously thin options seen on the 4S and older.

MP4 and mkv files seem to be the order of the day here, so if you want to watch something else you'll need to download an app like Cine X Player to achieve that - and it's not easy to load them on. Sure, many films are already encoded in that format, but it doesn't stop the closed nature from being irritating.

Given most other smartphones are capable of at least playing an AVI file still, if not Xvid or DivX, it's a shame Apple hasn't followed suit.

However, if you have got something you can watch, the experience is good. Well, apart from the relatively poor positioning of the 3.5millimeter headphone jack that is.

Holding the phone in landscape mode as you must for a movie session can get tiring, because you'll need to wrap your little finger around the wire to get a comfortable watching position... we wish it was moved inwards a few millimeters to help out.

The screen quality is very good though, and HD movies in particular look sharp and detailed.

iPhone 5 review

There's an argument here about the difference in color saturation levels between the Super AMOLED options and the Retina Display, but it really comes down to preference, as one will be oversaturated to one person, where the other will look washed out to another.

One problem we did note was that the screen had to be held at a more rigid viewing angle than the Galaxy S3 else the brightness went slightly awry. Not massively so, but enough to irritate at times.

As we mentioned above, the video app could do with a little overhaul, as the large thumbnail list can be a bit cumbersome to use at times. The S3 manages to play back the movies in the thumbnails, making it very easy to see what you're watching, which is really useful if you're trying to work out which episode of a series you're watching next.

Gallery and Photostream

Apple has always been about simplicity when it comes to viewing your photos, and the iPhone 5 is no exception.

It's a simple trip into the photos section to view your snaps (and videos, confusingly) where you can pinch to zoom or create albums of your favorite cat with ease.

iPhone 5 review

There's also the option to see geotagged photos on a map, which can really help take away the post vacation blues when you can see all the fun you had in hot climates.

Photostream is also available, meaning any photo taken with a device logged into the same Apple account will popular here instantly. It's a neat touch, but something many might not understand unless they get others to show them how to set it up properly.


Gaming on the iPhone 5 is more of a priority than ever, thanks to an enhanced graphics chip compared to both the iPhone 4S and the new iPad 3 (well, it would need to be an upgrade from the predecessor to handle the increase in pixels at least).

In practice it's easy to see why the iPhone 5 is a real competitor to the handheld console market, as gameplay on even the most intensive titles is fluid and responsive.

You've got access to the accelerometer and gyroscope as before, and while these aren't new features, since it was on the iPhone 4 that we got our first taste of being able to whirl around a room and shoot bad guys, it offers a pleasant trip down memory lane.

There's a wealth of gaming content that's mostly inexpensive on the App Store, so we recommend you check it out no matter if you're a seasoned gamer looking for the latest version of NOVA or someone that likes to play New Star Soccer on the train.

iPhone 5 review

At the time of writing, nearly every game we tested wasn't optimized for the larger 4-inch screen, so black bars top and bottom were employed.

However, we can see a really great level of use from the developers with that extra real estate... just think how much further you'll be able to fling those birds now.

New earphones

Apple's new EarPods made (some) headlines when launched with the new iPhone 5 - Apple is claiming they're designed "from the sound up."

In reality they're nothing more than a justified upgrade from the pitiful white options that have been hanging around with the iPod and iPhone for years now.

Apple earpods

You can read all about our in-depth findings with these buds in our Apple EarPods review, but they may stop some people upgrading to a better set of ear buds at least.

The new headphones are rounded and while won't be noise canceling (clearly Apple's employees don't take a lot of trains, else this would have been the first feature designed in) they are more connected to the ear canal.

The sound is a little muddy and bass heavy, but again it's a big improvement on the previous models.

The fit feels like it's going to fall out of your ears at any time, and if you've got more 'expansive' ears, they certainly will.


Tech Specs

Product TypeSmartphone
Network BandQuad Band
Input MethodTouchscreen
Wireless LANYes
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