Digital Spy

Search Digital Spy
56

Tech News

Apple iPhone 5 review: Maps, 4G, camera, EarPods, battery and more

By and Amie Parker-Williams

Apple has unleashed the latest generation of its genre-defining smartphone product, the iPhone.

The iPhone 5, actually the sixth version of the device, brings the biggest redesign since the iPhone 4 in 2010, including a larger screen, revamped connector and earphones, along with 4G connectivity.

The smartphone has already shifted more than 5 million units in just the opening weekend after it went on sale on September 14. But that was not surprising considering it racked up 2m global pre-orders in just 24 hours the previous week, smashing the 1m record of the iPhone 4S.

Cutting through all the hype, anticipation and multi-million sales, Apple has produced a smartphone that is beautifully designed and easy to use, but does not offer any major surprises or new ideas. Yes, this is the best iPhone yet, but it arrives in a much more competitive market than its predecessors.

Taller, brighter and slimmer iPhone

Customers wearing iPhone hats try out their new toys in the Apple store, Tokyo
The iPhone 5 is certainly one of the most beautiful smartphones that we have ever handled. The anodised aluminium body has a tactile quality and the phone feels great in your hand. In terms of looks it is rather like a taller, leaner iPhone 4S.

The phone is pretty much the same width as the 4S, with extra height and a bigger screen. It is 18% thinner and 20% lighter and somehow feels smaller overall.

A highlight of the redesign is the larger, 4-inch screen (up from 3.5 inches in past iPhones), which has the same stunning Retina high-resolution technology, boasting 1136 × 640 pixels, with an aspect ratio of 16:9.

The increase in screen real estate means more space to browse the web, look at apps and watch video in widescreen. It offers 44% more colour saturation than iPhone 4S and uses in-cell technology, integrating the touch layer into the LCD allowing for a thinner form factor.

High-resolution screens in smartphones are now becoming pretty much standard, and even though Apple has increased the size to four inches, that is still smaller than other handsets on the market.

Whilst the Samsung Galaxy S3's 4.8-inch screen may make the handset arguably feel a touch unwieldy, Motorola's new RAZR i comes with a 4.3-inch screen in a body no bigger than the iPhone 5. Apple's display is certainly on par with industry standards, but is not exactly setting them.

There have been reports of damage to the iPhone 5 body, but we found the phone to be pretty durable.

A6 Processor

Apple has ushered in the next-gen A6 processor in the iPhone 5, a chip that is 22% smaller than the A5 processor in the iPhone 4S but delivers twice the CPU performance and graphical power.

It clocks at 1.2GHz, compared to 1.5GHz or even 2Ghz in other handsets, but the operating memory has been doubled from 512 MB to 1GB. The performance seems quick, particularly in terms of downloading apps, but we are not convinced this is a giant leap on from the iPhone 4S.

In a very basic test, we loaded a video from BBC iPlayer simultaneously on an iPhone 4S and iPhone 5, and there was very little in it in terms of load time for the stream. On one occasion, the 4S actually outperformed the new iPhone.

However, the new processor certainly excels in gaming. Playing Jetpack Joyride is a smooth and fluid experience, boosted by the increase in screen size. The iPhone was already an impressive handheld gaming machine, but it just got even better with iPhone 5.



Better battery... at last

After the iPhone 4S was released last October 2011, the smartphone was criticised by some users for the rapid battery drain, even on just mild usage.

So, it is welcome that Apple has fitted a rechargeable lithium-ion polymer battery that is claimed to support around eight hours of talk time and eight hours of 3G/4G browsing, along with ten hours of video playback, and 40 hours of music playback.

Compared with an iPhone 4S, the new iPhone does appear easier on its battery, no longer draining the juice so quickly and thus enabling the user to spend almost an entire day away from the charger.

Camera

The rear camera in the iPhone 5 is still 8-megapixel as in the iPhone 4S, but Apple has made some big improvements to the technology.

Despite being 25% smaller than the 4S, the new iSight snapper takes better photos thanks to the sapphire crystal lens cover that reduces damage while also taking clearer images.

Comparing photos on the old and new smartphone shows the bump in quality. Textures are sharper and more defined, and lighting is more reflective of real life.

Apple has also introduced a variety of new software features to the camera, the most notable being Panorama images that involve sweeping the camera along against an on-screen prompt. This enables you to take pretty incredible Panorama images of up to 28 megapixels.

Apple iPhone 5 panorama


Elsewhere, the previous jitters in video capture have been smoothed out and face detection works with up to ten faces. But one of the biggest areas of improvement actually comes on the front.

The new front-facing 1.2MP camera supports FaceTime HD video calling and super-sharp self-portraits, as well as taking 720p HD video. This really does make a welcome difference.

iOS 6 and the tale of missing cities

A customer gets to grips with her white iPhone 5 in Hong Kong.
The latest version of the iOS mobile operating system, iOS 6, was released on September 19 for newer iPads, iPod Touch and iPhone models, and it comes pre-loaded on iPhone 5. The new software brings 200 new features, but for a lengthier rundown please see our review.

One area we do want to discuss, though, is Apple's new Maps tool. The application replaces Google Maps as the pre-loaded service in all newer iOS devices, but it has already had a very rocky start to life.

Whilst the application is beautiful to look at, particularly in the stunning 3D flyovers of major landmarks and locations, the absence of Google's hard-earned mapping, satellite, Street View and local information has been sorely felt by iOS users.

Despite Apple teaming up with sat nav firm TomTom, there have been reports of entire towns being missing from the application, and there is an overall lack of sharpness and detail in the maps.

Apple knows that it has come up short and is busy pulling in expertise from third-parties and hiring GIS and mapping experts. Apple Maps will also get better the more it is used and expanded.

In the meantime, you can still access Google Maps via the Safari browser and even tag it to the Home Screen. This means that the mobile browser can be just loaded with one click. It is not ideal, but will provide a stop-gap until Apple gets its act together or Google releases an iOS app of Google Maps, as it has done with YouTube after Apple also ditched that as a pre-installed service on iOS 6.

Lightning connector and new EarPods

The iPhone 5 arrives with completely redesigned earphones, dubbed EarPods. The old in-ear buds were widely disliked by users, but these are a big step forward by Apple. Formed from one piece of plastic, the buds sit much more comfortably in the ear and have been designed to direct sound more efficiently.

The bump in sound quality is evident and there seems to be more definition of sound, particularly in the bass. They are also more aesthetically pleasing, appearing a bit like the little white robot called EVE in Wall-E in the animated film by Pixar, the animation studio that had Apple co-founder Steve Jobs as its early backer.

Another new accessory that arrives with the iPhone 5 is the smaller dock connector, which is used to charge the phone and connect accessories, such as speakers.

Some critics have claimed that the new Lightning dock slips out too easily, but we didn't find that to be a major issue. The connector fits in snugly and stays fixed even when hanging the handset from the cord. It is also really nicely designed and much less cumbersome than the old 30-pin dock.

There is, of course, the issue that all existing accessories that are geared to the old connector will not work with the new iPhone 5, and Apple has been rightly criticised for selling an adaptor for £25. But the firm had to make this change at some point in order to save space in its devices, and it was always going to be a difficult transition.

4G is coming... soon

Meanwhile, customers in Chicago keep warm as they wait for the iPhone 5 to go on sale.
As announced at the blockbuster iPhone 5 product launch on September 12, Apple's new smartphone follows the latest iPad in supporting Long Term Evolution, or 4G, connectivity.

For us in the UK, the even more exciting news was that this would be coming to Blighty on the new EE network, the brand formed by Everything Everything that also includes Orange and T-Mobile.

EE has indicated that its 4G service, made possible after media regulator Ofcom permitted EE to reuse its existing 1800 Mhz spectrum, will deliver mobile internet speeds around five times faster than those of traditional 3G networks.

However, the EE network is still listed as "coming soon" and so we were unable to test out this next-generation network technology. File this one under 'eagerly anticipated'.

Apple iPhone 5 screen


Verdict

Apple's new smartphone delivers an improvement on the iPhone 4S in terms of screen, connectivity, form factor and camera. But whether this is enough for 4S owners to justify splashing out on the upgrade is open to debate, particularly as this is the most expensive ever iPhone.

Apple has played it rather safe with the iPhone 5, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. It has taken the successful design blueprint of the iPhone 4, and then made a new handset that is taller, leaner and more refined. There are improvements here, but more like tweaks to make life easier than major changes to the way we use phones.

The iPhone 5 arrives in a competitive market, including various popular Android phones and the emergence of Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. But it is still the major contender in the smartphone race and always an option that should be considered when upgrading.


You May Like

Comments

Loading...