Pros: Lighter, thinner, looks great, wider screen (making it a bit bigger)
Cons: Same homescreen, Apple Maps, No YouTube
Ah, the Apple iPhone 5. It's starting to get harder to keep things a secret, eh Apple? At least it is a completely different design, unlike the iPhone 4S, which is a great phone in it's own right. However, iOS is starting to show it's age. It's less customizable than Android, and having all those apps in the homescreen makes it hard to find what you need when you are an apps junkie.
Still, my friend and I decided to swap phones for a month and see if he can convince me to come back to Apple, while he gets a taste of Android. And it's a good taste, too - the Galaxy S3 kind.
Apple iPhone 5
The model number finally got an increment, and we now get to say "iPhone 5". My initial impressions? It feels much lighter than the previous iPhone 4 I owned! This is most likely due to using one less glass panel (no more breakable rear glass), while the entire phone chassis is milled from a single lightweight aluminium block. I've got to hand it to Apple - they sure know how to make their products feel rock solid and premium. Althought the light weight is, at first, distrubing.
Coming from an already lightweight Galaxy S3 (and previous Galaxy S phones), I wasn't all that distrubed. It just felt right, but was very slippery. The textured aluminium doesn't give you the grip you need. Combine that with the light weight, and I feel that it may just slip off my palm without my notice.
So what's new with the iPhone 5 besides the look? The processor is given an upgrade. It now uses a faster A6 dual-core processor with quad core graphics. This was done to drive a high resolution 4 inch display. That's right, folks: Apple has gone larger. But they did it in an interesting way. The Retina Display has the same pixel density. Apple simply stretched the display to allow for a widescreen aspect ratio. It's still not 720p, but it's close at 1136x640. The width of the screen is exactly the same, but it's now taller, giving you an extra row of icons. This made the phone seem akwardly tall at first, especially if you handled the previous iPhones.
Despite all this, the phone is actually thinner than the iPhone 4 and 4S! It's about as thick as the aluminium band on the previous iPhone! The industrial design is still there, along with sharp edges. This gives it a very clean look. The rounded rectangular shape remains.
From the front, it doesn't look that different from any of the previous iPhones (again, except being a bit taller). This is Apple's signature iPhone look, and they won't mess with it.
From the rear, it looks very different. There is a two-tone design where small slivers of glass adorn the top and bottom. This allows for the antennas to do their job unhindered by the aluminium metal chassis. I have the black model, and I must say, it looks very murdurous! This also makes the white model looks much more innocent. It's got that evil and good thing going when put side by side together at a store display case.
with it's major overhaul, Apple decided this is a good time to get rid of the ubiquitous 30-pin dock cable. Instead, we now have a 8-pin connector called Lightning. The new Lightning cable isn't faster than the old one. It's just smaller and allows for the user to plug it in either orientation. Of course, this isn't true on the USB side of things, of course. The connector is also completely digital, which allows Apple to reduce the pin count as well as the physical footprint of the connector.
If you own a lot of accessories that uses the old dock connector, you lose. Apple does sell an adapter for $40. This is more like a extention cable, however, and doesn't make much sense for repurposing an old 32-pin speaker or clock dock.
And who can forget LTE! Apple is a bit late to the game, but they finally have LTE support for Verizon, AT&T, even Sprint! Sprint doesn't really have their LTE network ready, but the iPhone 5 is ready when they are.
With a new iPhone comes a new iOS version. The Maps debacle aside, iOS 6 doesn't really feel different from previous iOS versions. With iOS 5 having a more significant upgrade from iOS 4 (Siri, notification shade, etc), iOS 6 for the most part removed many built-in Google apps such as Maps and YouTube.
Apple did include Passbook, which is their sideways answer to Google's Wallet. Unlike Google Wallet, it really isn't for payments. And instead of using NFC, they use QR codes for merchants to scan. What it's really for are coupons, loyalty cards, and passes/tickets. So far, Google Wallet does payments (hooked to your credit or debit card) and Google Offers coupons.
When Apple removed Google Maps, they replaced it with their own home-spun map software. It's not without merits, of course. The Flyby feature is beautiful, letting you get a 3D helecopter-like tour of landmarks and cities. Turn-by-turn navigation also makes an appearance featuring Siri's voice as the announcer. The app itself is great! It's the data that's bad. As you may have known, there are destinations in the wrong places, getting people lost. Also, the points of interests (such as gas stations and restaurants) are not as extensive as Google's. And Street View is gone, too.
Siri is still here, and she learned a few new tricks in iOS 6. She seem to understand more of our natrual language. She can now post to Facebook and launch third party apps. And yes folks, I mentioned Facebook. When iOS 5 was released, Apple included Twitter integration. Now Apple added Facebook in the mix. This allows you to share from many of Apple's built-in apps and have Siri post things for you via your voice, just like you can with Twitter.
Facetime can now be used over your cellular data plan! However, AT&T is being a bit weird about this. Last I remember, they aren't letting customers who are grandfathered into their unlimited plan use Facetime over data. Boo!
There are tons of other little additions as well, but it's typical of all iOS upgrades: the homescreen remains the same. I still not a fan of their homescreen, as I have lots of apps, which will create many pages. Even putting them in folders isn't a solution.
I know one ePinions reader is looking for a phone review, so here you go. This one is for you.
The dialer hasn't changed that I've seen. The number pad is white instead of dark gray. Other than that, I don't see any differences between iOS 5 and 6. This isn't a necessarily a bad thing. As I mentioned before, the smartphone is being used less like a phone these days, and there's not much to improve upon the interface.
It's still easy to join other callers (call conference), but can be buggy (this is not the phone's fault, but the carrier - I experience the same issues with other AT&T phones). The interface also makes it easy to put callers on hold to answer another call.
Sound quality, of course, will be mentioned in the Sound section of this review. But for now, let me tease you with this: Apple says call quality has impoved with a new feature called wideband audio. Has it?
Apple always prided themselves with a high-end music player called the iPod. I haven't had an Apple iPod put out inferior audio quality, and the iPhone 5 hasn't changed that. Despite being a phone, it's a great music player. While the music player app hasn't changed much from iOS 5, it's still easy to use.
The single speaker at the bottom puts out decent sound without bass, but can get pretty loud without distortion. As usual, the speaker placement allows for you to place the phone down without blocking the speaker grill unlike most other smartphones.
The bottom headphone jack (yes, they moved it - and I like this change) is where it's at! With a good set of headphones, you can actually hear the difference between a quality Wolfson DAC (which the iPhone 5 uses) compared to cheaper DACs their competitor uses. Highs are crisp, mids are pronounced without being overbearing, and bass are tight and accurate without being flabby.
Phone calls sound pretty good without distortion. It doesn't get as loud as my Galaxy S3, however. The other person can hear me without any complaints either. But where does this new "Wideband Audio" feature comes in? Apparently in the US, it doesn't.
None of the US carriers support this technology. Sprint's HD Voice technology is completely different, so no love there, either. Perhaps in other parts of the country...
But what is Wideband Audio? Well, voice transmission doesn't require much bandwidth, so to reduce overhead, carriers tend to transmit a small portion of the audible frequency. It's a very narrow band. Wideband Audio basically widens this narrow sliver a bit. This little bit allows for more highs and low lows, giving the human voice a fuller sound. Because we can't use it here, there's no way for us to test it.
When the iPhone 4S came out, Apple gave it more pixels - now 8 MP. The iPhone 5 uses the same camera, but Apple claims that they had to redesign it to fit it in the slimmer body. Thankfully, the image quality remains unchanged. Low light performance is still very good, while it does even better outdoors. Of course, I was able to reproduce the purple halo issue when shooting at the sun in certain angles, it was a rare occurance.
With the dual-cores, the iPhone 5 can capture some very fluid 1080p video. The anti-shake feature does well, but isn't as dramatic as I thought. It's a digital effect, so it's not as subtle as optical solutions, but in a pinch it's better than an unusable video clip. The anti-shake seem to be a little better than iMovie's own anti-shake filter.
The front facing camera isn't much better than the iPhone 4S. It can certainly do it's job just fine for Facetime and other video chat programs. For stills, you will notice an abundance of grain and noise, especially when indoors. Outdoors, it's not as apparent, but distingusing features of a person's face aren't as pronounced. Colors seem better than the Galaxy S3's camera, though. Stills come out at 1.2 MP. You can now do 720p video using the front camera, which the 4S did not do.
This is one thing I miss about the iPhone. Sure I can live with my Galaxy S3's battery life, but the iPhone 5 blows me away! using the iPhone 5 the same way I use my Galaxy S3, I managed to leave 35-40% of the battery before I need to plug it in for the next day. With my Galaxy S3, I would usually have around 20-30% left.
The Apple iPhone 5 is actually a well built phone. There are controversies with it's curernt itteration of iOS, but the hardware itself is very good. Would I go back to an iPhone, though?
No. If Android runs on it, sure. I love the hardware, but iOS is feeling dated. It's still feels quick and smooth, but the biggest problem I have is how applications multitask, switching between apps, and sharing data between apps. Then, of course, there's the homescreen with all your applications spread out without any way to only put what you use often and hide the rest in some sort of app drawer.
I wonder what my friend has to say about my Galaxy S3.