iPhone 5 review: Apple slims, stretches, and speeds up the iPhone
The moment you pick up an iPhone 5 you’ll notice how light it is. When a device is so light to begin with, trimming 20 percent off the weight is not just dramatic; it’s dramatically noticeable. While lighter, though, it does not feel insubstantial.
The iPhone 5 is also thinner than its predecessor. The slim down is largely due to the new design of the iPhone, which has a brushed, anodized aluminum back—in black or white—to go with a thinner glass front.
All of that despite the fact that the iPhone 5 grew to be four inches tall. That’s enough additional screen real estate to give videos a proper widescreen proportion and an extra row of icons. You get more text on the screen, too, which aids in reading documents, messages, and emails. There was no sacrifice of resolution, though, and the screen still has 326 pixels per inch—the same as the 4S—even in its taller configuration.
But because the iPhone 5 is the same width, the extra height is easy to manage. And somehow the iPhone 5 feels just as perfect in your palm as the last version, which felt better than the model that preceded it. It’s a talent that the designers at Apple have, being able to make each iteration feel better than the one that came before.
A new iSight camera on the front allows users to snap photos while shooting high-definition video and the rear-facing Face Time camera has also been bumped in quality. Face Time is also possible over cellular networks—not just Wi-Fi—but note that using it will impact the amount of data you use, so make sure you’ve got a plan that will accommodate it.
The new A6 duel-core processing chip that runs the iPhone 5 is another reason for the thin and light form factor. It’s also why the latest iPhone is blistering fast when it comes to opening apps and processing information; sometimes twice as fast as the 4S.
In terms of connectivity, the iPhone 5 will run on LTE cellular networks but check with your provider for pricing because it’s not necessarily going to be the same price to access LTE compared to the 3G network. And the Wi-Fi antenna is now a dual-band 802.11n.
There is a new, superior connector for the iPhone 5, too. The Lightning connector allows for faster syncing and it has no front or back so there’s no more trying to figure out which side of the cable goes up. The problem is that the new connector effectively invalidates many iPhone accessories. An adapter plug is available, but a year from now you won’t even remember the old one as you replace your accessories for new versions. You’ll continue to appreciate the upgraded connector, though.
My problem with the iPhone 5 has nothing to do with the device, and everything to do with the iOS 6 operating system that powers the handset. That means these could be problems for any Apple device that is upgraded to use the new software.
The most prominent change is with the maps feature, which was previously powered by Google Maps. Apple has its own maps app now, and while it has some nice features when it comes to providing directions, the app has been criticized for providing less detail in some areas. TransLink users in the Lower Mainland are going to miss the schedule and route information that had been integrated in Google Maps. Lacking a Translink app, riders will be forced to use the cumbersome TransLink website instead. Hopefully, Apple will be able to quickly improve on its maps app, or other developers will come up with apps to solve this problem.
The YouTube app that was integrated into earlier versions of the iOS operating system is also gone.
iOS 6 isn’t all bad. Benefits include a camera feature that creates panoramic photos that are large enough to print and frame, a “do not disturb” mode that blocks communication features, and the ability to respond to calls and texts with a canned message that can be triggered with a touch. One example: “Can’t talk right now. I’ll call you later.”
Siri, the voice-controlled personal assistant is also certified Canada-friendly with the release of iOS 6. Overall, the voice recognition is better, and Siri can now provide details about movies and restaurants in your area. Despite the Canadian integration, my tests with Siri have yet to determine whether it ever ends a comment with “eh?”.