iPhone 5 review

The iPhone 5 re-energized Apple's smartphone, but it's now long in the tooth

iPhone 5 review
The definitive iPhone 5 review

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While the iPhone may not have been much use in the calling arena, when it comes to messaging Apple has turned the wick up once again with the iPhone 5.

Not only does the larger screen give you more room to fire out missives, it also allows more ways of letting people know what you're thinking.

Text messaging

The SMS is still the most popular way on the planet to keep in contact with people, and while it's limited in functionality, it's still a simple method to use.

iPhone 5 review

Apple's system is still the same as it always was here, with the messaging app giving you the option to send a simple text or chuck a picture across the airwaves to your friends. The interface is tidy, still works as expected and you've got the ability to see 2-3 more messages on the elongated screen.

Apple's iMessage functionality is embedded too, which in theory means free communication between friends using the service, and is part of Apple's efforts to entice teenagers.

For iPhone 5 users, it's perhaps questionable whether some will want to save money on text messages (and see when people are typing a reply), given the high cost of the handset. However, much like FaceTime, the technology's proliferation across iPad, Mac, iPod touch and iPhone devices makes iMessage potentially useful if you've many Apple-loving friends. The fact that it's free to use even when your friends are on the other side of the world (providing they have internet access on their Apple device) is also a boon.

The bigger problem is iMessage's lack of reliability. Messages will default to the iMessage system when possible, and they occasionally have a habit of being delivered out of order, and in different orders on different devices. The only way to avoid this is to opt out of iMessage entirely, and it's an area Apple clearly needs to tighten.


Right from the outset Apple has had a strong focus on email, and that continues with the iPhone 5.

iPhone 5 review

Where the contacts menu is poor, the emailing system is only bested by a few options (the HTC Sense method and the Windows Phone mail apps spring to mind).

But there's something excellent about the simplicity Apple has employed for its system - there's an integrated inbox for all your accounts, and this has been joined by the VIP option, giving you the chance to select the people you really care about and have them easier to see when they message you.

The inbox itself is a simple and efficient affair, with none of the fancy options available on other larger phones, such as heading into landscape mode to see a list of messages and previews. This option is available on the iPad, but Apple has rightly seen that the 4-inch screen is too small for such a trick.

Everything from being able to bulk delete emails with a swift touch to swiping to get rid of single messages oozes quality, and for those that use the iPhone for business, the simple folder structure and server searching are godsends.

This is an area that doesn't need luxury, it needs presentable efficiency, and Apple has still got that in spades.

One cool addition we do like is the goo-like update icon that appears when you go to refresh emails - another example of Apple's attention to UI detail throughout the phone, and something we found ourselves playing with every time we entered our inbox, just for the fun of it.

Social networking

With the announcement of the tie-in with Facebook for iOS 6, we had high hopes for the integration of the service within the phone. And while there's the option to download FB Messenger as a standalone app, you can't see your friends' messages from your iPhone inbox, or on their contact page.

In fact, when it comes to this social networking integration there's very little full stop. You can post to Twitter or Facebook from the notification bar and use a system tweet/post dialog once accounts are defined in Settings, but that's it.

iPhone 5 review

We're sure those services are happy to have a constant link to users through the Apple fan base, but it could be so much more with integrated inboxes and being able to link a Twitter account to the Contacts app as well.

We know you can more easily post pictures and videos to Facebook thanks to the new tie-in, but we hope to see more from this in the future.


iPhone 5 review

With great size comes greater keyboard manipulation, but as Apple has only pushed the size of the screen up, rather than outwards, there's no more room on the portrait offering, so if you thought the iPhone 4S and back was cramped, you're not going to be that impressed with the iPhone 5.

It's not a bad keyboard; in fact, it's got a greater range of accuracy than many other phones of its size.

But if you're moving here from something like an HTC Desire or Samsung Galaxy S2, be prepared for a transition period where you wonder in the touchscreen is slightly broken and you can't tap out all the letters in your name easily.

The autocorrect is pretty good, but not in the same league as something like Swiftkey, which uses algorithms to predict your typing style and likely next word - we were still able to knock out messages up to 30% faster on the Galaxy S3 over the iPhone 5 thanks to the predictive option.

In landscape mode the iPhone 5 is better though, although the larger screen makes it slightly harder to reach the middle letters at times.

iPhone 5 review

It's not bad at all, and with a degree of practice those that love talking with both hands will appreciate the more spaced-out letters.

With the launch of Apple's iOS 6.0.1, an issue which saw some users getting some horizontal banding popping up over the keyboard at times - this has since been removed. We heard of a few users that compain about this ruining Apple's sheen, so it's good to see it's removed quickly.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.