92
10
final rating

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Criteria Comments Rating
  • Reception and call quality As with most modern phones, I think call quality and reception is more carrier dependent than hardware. I have no iPhone 5-exclusive issues with reception. great!
  • Display It has an sRGB IPS display which is currently the best-of-class with 326dpi. The increased display size is nice and usable with one hand. great!
  • Battery life Battery life does not wow, but is markedly improved over the 4S. good
  • Camera Camera is excellent, though a better camera in future is always welcomed. good
  • Ease of use iOS is smooth and simple to use. Third-party apps are designed with more consistency than those of competing platforms. great!
  • Design and form factor This is Apple's best design yet, with a unibody aluminium construct. It feels more like a luxury item than a consumer product. great!
  • Portability (size / weight) Great thinness, and feels good in the pocket and hand. It is lightweight and easy to pocket. great!
  • Media support Apple has a wide offering of books, music, videos and apps. Amazon also offers content on it, along with many other content providers. great!
  • Durability I noticed some hairline scratches on the screen that is seen only in strong sunlight. Otherwise the phone feels solid and could survive a few drops. good
  • Ecosystem (apps, accessories, etc.) Most app developers and accessory makers are still concentrating on the iPhone and Apple's newest flagship still has the strongest ecosystem. great!
Detailed review
Each iPhone introduced thus far seems to have its own headlining feature:
  • iPhone: reinvention
  • iPhone 3G: faster networking speeds
  • iPhone 3GS: better performance
  • iPhone 4: redesigned iPhone
  • iPhone 4S: better performance, Siri
While many (or perhaps a bunch of vocal critics) panned the iPhone 5 for being “disappointing” or “boring” during its launch because they were expecting a repeat of 2007's “reinvention”, the iPhone 5 is actually quite the leapfrogging iteration in Apple's series of smartphones: It includes faster networking speeds, better performance, and a redesigned chassis - major improvements that defined previous generations combined within one single new iPhone.

Performance and Networking

The iPhone 4S was no slouch in performance, having an A5 chip that was entirely adequate for running iOS and apps smoothly, but the A6 chip iPhone 5 uses is something else. According to benchmarks so far, iPhone 5's A6 chip is firmly in the next-generation of its class, handily beating close rivals in various benchmarks. Apple has never focussed on winning a spec war, but the victory here has the inevitable effect of apps launching even faster than before, things run smoother on an already fast iOS, and things are just extremely responsive.

With the powerful A6 chip paired with lightning-fast LTE networking, iPhone 5 isn't just fast - it's shockingly fast, and that creates a very wonderful experience. You don't feel encumbered by your phone when everything zips along at your command, and that is really a rather intangible thing to describe. One needs to be using the phone, things loading almost instantaneously (provided a good connection) under his or her thumb to appreciate such “magic”.

All these with greater battery life than the that of the iPhone 4S due to the more efficient nature of the A6 and LTE components provides a delightful experience.

Design

The performance is also contained in a fantastically thin enclosure. Volumetrically, the iPhone 5 is some 12% smaller than the iPhone 4S despite a larger screen and all around better performance. The aluminium unibody of the phone gives it a very premium feel (with or without considering the competition), and the svelte and light phone is comfortable to hold and feels solid.

The design is also another defining feature of the iPhone 5. In my opinion, the black model in particular is understatedly seductive, with the gleaming chamfered edges highlighting that this is no normal phone. The iPhone 5 is affordable luxury - it is manufactured and designed as if it was a $500 Mont Blanc pen, except it is simultaneously also a very capable smartphone well worth its price tag, and not much more expensive than its peers.

Conclusion

The rest of the phone are what people have come to love - and hate - about the iPhone. iOS is what it does as much as what it doesn't: there are no widgets, save for the few stock ones in the Notifications Center, it has the same fundamental approach to home screens and app management as before, and it is decidedly limited in user customisability. People who have those priorities will no doubt find the iPhone 5 lacking. While there are definitely caveats that Apple could fix, this is an excellent smartphone unless you prefer other operating systems and their associated features.

On the other hand, its usual bread-and-butter of an excellent App Store, a well-designed and smooth user interface and stable OS will continue to appeal to those who appreciate such niceties. Coupled with the absolutely beautiful hardware, the iPhone 5 will be the phone that is close to perfection for many people.
review history
2012-09-24
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2012-09-22
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Comments (3) subscribe to this review's comments

N7user

Wow! I've not seen more positive except in the adverts. How do you feel now after a month of ownership? Is the aluminium showing through the paint? Are those "hairline scratches" from a few days use now showing more? Are you wishing for a proper sized screen yet?
Sethisfy

After almost a month of ownership, I have realised that the aluminium chipping issue is completely overblown. I put my phone in my pocket without a case, and it is totally fine. I glance through the chamfered edges almost each time I pick up the phone, and there have been no chipping issues. I've had very positive experiences with the scratchability and durability of Apple's aluminium products (e.g. iPod mini, PowerBook, iPad etc) and the iPhone 5 is no exception — I haven't had any cosmetic issues with them as I make sure they don't bump with other objects.

There are issues where the phone was already scuffed out of box perhaps due to rough handling at the factories. I did a 1-to-1 replacement with Apple last week. The new set's screen, strangely enough, does not scratch as easily as the last one. Perhaps I have been more careful with the display.

In terms of screen size, I have found myself wishing that Apple remained at 3.5". After a month, the 4" screen still requires that little stretch from the thumb occasionally but still usable with a single hand.
pitan

Great review.