• iPhone 5 Review And User Experience

    So what’s changed this year with the iPhone?


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    iPhone 5 Review

    iPhone 5 Review

    We’ve got a larger 4 inch screen, 4G LTE connectivity, and a general redesign that’s seen nearly every component upgraded. The iPhone 5 is thinner, faster, and lighter than any iPhone before it, And it’s really worth looking at in more detail. The iPhone 5 is so extremely light, considering it’s construction is all metal and glass. It’s the lightest and thinnest iPhone to date. It’s also the largest, with a 4 inch screen. It’s under 6cm wide, (58.6mm) the same width as the iPhone 4 and 4S. But it’s nearly 9mm taller than both these phones (iPhone 5 height = 123.8mm), And nearly 2mm thinner (iPhone 5 thickness = 7.6mm). The iPhone 5 weighs just 112grams, which is 28g lighter than the 4S and 25g lighter than the iPhone 4. It reminded me very much of those demo phones in shops when I first picked it up, it’s so light in the hand. The lightness and thinness of the phone may be what you notice first, But Apple have gone to some length to keep the same width, despite the larger 4 inch screen. It’s all about being able to use it comfortably with one hand, And also still fitting into the same size pockets that the previous iPhones fit into. Looks wise, the iPhone 5 may have the familiar flat rectangular shape and round home button, But you couldn’t really mistake it for the 4 or 4S, And that’s more than just a difference in screen size. The construction is more robust this time, with a unibody anodised aluminium chassis. On the back, there are two glass inlays on the top and bottom, It’s ceramic glass on this white phone, while the black phone has pigmented glass. It gives the iPhone a nice duotone finish with the metal and glass contrast. The metal also gives the phone a very premium feel in the hand. And the diamond cut bevelled edge adds to that feel as well as making it more rounded, hence comfortable to hold. On this white phone the edges are polished aluminium, But on the black version the edge has a surface dye. So this could make the black iPhone 5 more prone to scuffs that show. Another major difference between the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 4S can be seen at the bottom of the phone. You now have the 3.5mm headphone jack placed here. It’s a placement that I’ve had to get used to, But I see the benefit of not having it at the top of the phone where the earphone cable might get in the way of the display. Right in the middle is the new smaller lightning port which serves for charging and data syncing. On the left of that is the bottom microphone, And to the right is the speaker. On the front of the phone, The 1.2 megapixel, 720p ‘Facetime’ camera is now in the middle, right above the earpiece and front microphone grille. There’s also a proximity sensor there. One thing missing in the design, for me, is a front LED indicator. There is the option to set an LED flash for alerts in the settings, You go to general, and then the accessibility options. What happens here is that the rear camera LED flashes brightly when there’s a notification. However, if the phone is on a flat surface, like a desk, you wouldn’t quickly notice the flashing LED until you picked the phone up. So hopefully, we might see an LED indicator on the front in future iPhones. The home button below the screen is the same design as in previous iPhones. It’s not flush with the glass, but slightly recessed, So you’d have no trouble finding it with your finger, even in the dark. It’s a multi-purpose button. Pressing it once always takes you to the homescreen. Double-clicking it, with the phone unlocked, brings up the multitasking bar at the bottom of the screen. Double-clicking it, with the phone locked, shows music playback controls. Pressing and holding it, brings up Siri. You can also access the camera from here if the iPhone is locked. Just press the home button, then drag the camera symbol up. On the left side of the phone there’s the volume plus and minus buttons. These are separate buttons, And I personally prefer this to a rocker switch. These buttons usually control the ringer and alert volume, But if you’re in the middle of a phone call or listening to music, then the buttons control audio volume. If you’re using the camera, either of these buttons can be used to take a photo or record video. Above the volume buttons is the silent switch. When you flip this little switch it turns off all calls, alerts and other sound effects. Music playback through the speakers or the headphone isn’t silenced though. On the right hand side of the phone, there’s the nano-SIM tray. It’s a new SIM size, And you can see how it compares to both the standard SIM and a microSIM. Considering how nearly everything in the iPhone 5 has been miniaturised in one way or other, Having a smaller SIM isn’t really a surprise, but it does mean a SIM swap for all users. At the top of the phone, there’s just the power on-off button. On the back of the phone is the 8 megapixel, 1080p iSight camera and LED flash. In between them is the back microphone. Both front and rear cameras on the iPhone 5 are covered by sapphire crystal and not glass. It’s as clear as glass, but much harder, second in hardness to diamond. So it’s not likely to scratch easily. The battery in the iPhone 5 is non-removable, And storage is fixed at 16, 32, or 64 GB (gigabyte), since there is no microSD card slot. The iPhone 5 is beautifully designed, and it shows. There might not be any immediately eye-catching, drastic changes compared to the 4S, other than a larger screen, But there are still a whole lot of smaller, subtle changes that together add up to a striking piece of technology. This year the iPhone’s 3.5 inch IPS LCD screen has been elongated to 4 inches. The width remains the same though, So compared to the 4S, the iPhone 5 has a taller display that gives it space for an extra fifth row of icons on the homescreen. The new display resolution is 1136 x 640 pixels. That’s 176 more pixels than the iPhone 4S, And the iPhone 5 maintains the same 326 ppi ‘retina’ pixel density. All the app icons are still the same size, What you get is more screen space. Visually it feels like a lot more than that. Because of the clarity and sharpness of the iPhone 5’s display, I haven’t found it constricting, even after getting used to 4.5 and 4.8 inch screens. Other than the extra row of icons on the homescreen, The next thing you notice is how apps look. Native apps like calendar and mail have been updated, And use the extra space to show more content, Like a five day view in calendar. But a lot of other apps are still in need of an update, And what you now get is a letter-boxing effect with the app centred on screen with black border above and below. This is quite noticeable on the white phone, But may be less so on the black one. Since the iPhone 5 is the same width as the iPhone 4 and 4S, Holding it and using it with just one hand is still comfortable. Even with the 4 inch screen, I can quite easily reach all areas of the display with my thumb. So it’s convenient for quick use. The portrait mode keyboard is same as before, and can be used one-handed. In landscape, the keys are slightly wider, with more space to either side of the keyboard. The home-screen layout is the same, With a fixed grid of icons and folders, And the transparent dock at the bottom with it’s four app icons. You can also lock screen orientation into portrait or landscape from the multitasking bar. Another change in the iPhone 5’s display is that it’s the thinnest one on any iPhone so far. 30 percent thinner than before. The separate capacitance layer has been removed, And the individual pixels in the display double-up as touch sensing electrodes. I’m not sure how much it contributes to the iPhone’s quick responsiveness, But actions certainly feel fast. Compared to the iPhone 4S, there’s 44 percent more colour saturation in this display, as well as better contrast. It has much higher brightness, and a colour gamut approaching the full sRGB spectrum, This is similar to the well calibrated 2012 iPad display, and it’s an impressive feat for a smartphone, Since it points to the iPhone 5’s display having excellent colour accuracy. High brightness levels, and contrast ratings for ambient light also mean better sunlight legibility. You can see how the iPhone 5 display does for colour and sunlight in this test video. I set the display brightness to maximum for this. This first clip shows video playback on a cloudy day. There’s fairly good outdoor visibility, good contrast, and no screen glare. You can make out the objects and colours in the video very well. This next clip shows video playback on a very bright, sunny day. But even here, there’s minimum screen glare. You still get good contrast and colours are clear, though less vibrant perhaps. The iPhone 5’s display does very well in direct sunlight. The display also manages to show close to true colour. There’s no over-saturation in green or red with these runner bean flowers. You can see the contrasting details on the wheat without much loss. Blues though, tend to be slightly saturated, like on this empty snail shell I found. These pink rose petals on the pond came out looking good. There’s a bit more blue shown in these flowers with the butterfly. I managed to get up real close to this sunbathing butterfly, And the phone’s display really handles these colours well. And another of my close shots – a very hungry caterpillar. And finally, autumn leaves against the sky, And again the display manages to show close to true colour. The iPhone 5 is the fastest iPhone yet, with 1 GB RAM and a custom Apple designed A6 processor. There weren’t any official announcements as to power specs, But much testing by various sources has revealed the A6 to be an ARM cortex-like build, dual core processor, Running at least 1.3 GHz clock speed. It also appears to have a triple core graphics processing unit with similar performance to that of the quad-core GPU found in the new 2012 iPad. In real world use, the iPhone 5 has up to twice the CPU power and twice the graphics performance, of the iPhone 4S. It’s also more power efficient. Apps load fast, And all gesture responses are fluid. I noticed no lag in performance. Whether it’s things like browsing and loading web pages, Or opening multiple apps in succession, Everything is fast and responsive. The graphics power really comes into show when playing graphic intensive games, like Infinity Blade 2. Some games, like Temple Run, have already been updated for the new 4 inch display, So look even better on the iPhone 5. 1080p video playback is smooth, with no stuttering. And with the new 16:9 aspect ratio of the 4 inch screen, Widescreen movies fit the full display. Connectivity on the iPhone 5 has been updated this year with the addition of 4G LTE. I don’t have 4G where I live right now, so I wasn’t able to test it for this review. The iPhone 5 also has dual band wi-fi, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, And on the whole, wi-fi connection has been strong with fast downloads. GPS continues to have assisted-GPS and GLONASS support. I had no trouble getting a quick satellite lock in my area, And Apple maps have so far been quite accurate and reliable here. The maps app is still in it’s infancy though, and I’m sure it’ll be seeing a lot of updates to iron out niggles. I’ll be looking at maps, Siri, and other new interface features in more detail in my upcoming iOS6 review. So remember to watch that. Now something that didn’t materialise in the iPhone this year is NFC. With the introduction of Passbook, I was sort of expecting to see NFC there as well, But Apple has a history of not rushing to incorporate new tech just for the sake of it, And NFC isn’t yet mainstream enough that everyone can make proper use of it. So we may have to wait a year or so before we see it in the iPhone. A major change for connectivity in the iPhone 5 is the new lightning connector. Compared to the old 30pin connector, the new one has a much smaller, flat, 8pin design, And it’s reversible so you don’t have to worry about which way you’re plugging it in to the phone. I found that quite handy when I’m looking to just quickly plug the phone in for charging. Despite the ‘lightning’ in its name, the new connector uses USB 2 just like the old one. It does cause a problem for people with older docking accessories though, They’ll need to buy a separate lightning to 30pin adapter, But this will only provide power and audio out, no video. I’ve had no problem with call reception on the iPhone 5, and in the week that I’ve been using it I didn’t have any dropped calls, and that’s even in some areas where I only had two signal bars showing. Incoming audio is really loud and clear. I haven’t been able to test out the HD voice technology yet, since that requires two HD voice enabled phones on the same network. But once I get a chance to test out HD voice on the iPhone 5, I’ll upload an article on . So check the website for that. Still, even with normal calls the iPhone 5’s audio clarity and background noise cancelling is really good. I think much of it has to do with the three microphones and the active noise cancellation where the top two microphones on the front and back work together to produce clearer sound. I’ve recorded a sample clip so you can hear the in-call audio quality. To laugh often and much, To win the respect of intelligent people, And the affection of children, To earn the appreciation of honest critics, And endure the betrayal of false friends, To appreciate beauty, To find the best in others, To leave the world a bit better, Whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, Or a redeemed social condition, To know that even one life has breathed Better because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. And that’s by Ralph Waldo Emerson Sound through the speaker at the bottom is also very loud considering the small size of the phone. Apple continues to use Cirrus logic audio codec chips in the iPhones, and the speaker gives clear mid and high tones that manage not to sound too tinny. Like in most phones, bass is a bit lacking, so for music with a lot of bass, playing it through the speaker wouldn’t be the best experience, and you might prefer to use headphones. But for speech and other types of music, I found the speaker to be very good. Imagine all the people living life in peace You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one I hope some day you’ll join us And the world will be as one. And that’s by John Lennon, Though I could never sing it as well as him. But it gives you an idea of how loud and clear voice sounds through the speaker. Now listen to how music sounds… The Apple earpods are a new accessory bundled with the iPhone 5. They replace the standard white earphones that came with the previous iPhones. They’re a type of hybrid earbud, sitting in between the sponge-tipped earphones and the in-ear style earbuds. It’s a really futuristic design, with smooth moulded plastic shaped to fit the inner curves of the ear. It’s like a regular pair of earphones with the outer casing shaped to direct the sound straight into the ear canal, thus mimicking the in-ear style earbuds. But you’ll notice they don’t have any silicone buds, so it’s one size fits all really. And that may be the reason why you’ll either love them or hate them, depending on how well they sit in your ear. They’re very lightweight and felt quite loose when I was using them, since they fit into the ear, but don’t have that snug fit that the silicone in-ear style ones do. They were comfortable enough, but there was always this nagging feeling that if I tilted my head slightly they’d fall out. But in reality they do stay in place pretty well. I didn’t have any problem even jogging with them in. So I think it’s more a case of getting used to the new design and how they feel in the ear. But shape’s not the only thing that’s improved with these earpods. Their sound range is miles ahead of the older Apple earphones. The bass in particular is much better, and it reminded me very much of the Dr dre UR-beats earbuds I had with the One X. The earpods also pick up more higher range tones, so music has a fuller sound to it, compared to the the older earphones. The one thing lacking was detail in the mid ranges. I found the bass was drowning out some of that. The design isn’t entirely noise isolating either. So overall, the earpods are really good, and a nice accessory to have with the iPhone, but they’re not something I would go out and buy separately. I’d prefer to spend just a little bit more and get a good dedicated pair of earphones for listening to music. However, the earpods do work very well as a hands-free kit. They have the same remote and mic seen in the older version. So you can control the volume and music playback, Answer or end calls by pressing the middle section, And pressing and holding the middle brings up Siri, which can be useful if you want quick information on the go. The storage case takes a bit of getting used to. It’s not as easy as slipping the earpods into a pouch, You have to get the earpods properly in place, make sure the cable and remote are aligned, And then slowly wind them around, before putting the lid on. The end result looks nice, but it’s not something you’ll be doing in a hurry. The rear iSight camera on the iPhone 5 is manufactured by Sony. It’s 8 megapixels, has a five element lens, backside illumination sensor, and LED flash. Much of this is the same as with the iPhone 4S, But the iPhone 5’s camera has had several tweaks producing better low-light performance, improved noise reduction for clearer and mored detailed photos, And 40 percent faster image capture. The whole rear camera module is also 25 percent smaller than the iPhone 4S one, While still managing to maintain the 4S camera’s image quality. It also has a sapphire crystal lens cover rather than glass. Sapphire crystal being second in hardness only to diamond, it’s less likely to become scratched. The photos I took with the iPhone 5 came out clear and detailed, It managed to capture near perfect colour of this bench. The grass is green…mostly! And these spinach leaves look as yummy as they do in real life. I really like the high-definition produced in macro shots. It’s picking out every detail in these raindrops and on what I think is a size zero bee. I had the phone just inches away from it here. I took this shot of these crayons in a totally dark room, So you can see how powerful the flash is. I love how it’s managed to pick out all the colours clearly, and how sharp and detailed the photo is. There is something approaching burst-mode in the iPhone 5 camera, Repeatedly pressing the on-screen, or physical volume buttons takes multiple shots. It’s not the continuous shot mode found in some other phones, where you just keep your finger pressed down on the button. And it doesn’t automatically suggest a best photo out of them all. High Dynamic Range, or HDR, has been improved on the iPhone 5. This automatically blends the best parts of three separate exposure shots into one better looking photo. Panorama mode is a new addition to iOS6, So it’s something iPhone 4S users will get as well. You hold the phone up in portrait mode, and do a slow sweep of up to 240 degrees. It’s easy to do, with on-screen instructions guiding you as you create the shot. The final processing is fast and the individual shots are seamlessly blended together. The saved image is high-resolution 28 megapixels. There were some reports of iPhone 5 cameras producing a purple tinge around bright lights, like the sun. I didn’t have that issue, as you can see from these photos, which show the sun direct in the picture. The iPhone 5 rear camera can record 1080p video at 30 frames per second and mono-audio. So, back to the runner bean patch, and it’s focusing well, picking up all the colours and detail. You can tell, I’ve got this thing for flowers, The insects come with them, but fortunately they like being on camera. It’s rain and more rain here everyday, so plenty of water droplets in high definition everywhere. This is from a visit to my local ducks and other water birds on a very dim day, hardly any sunlight, But the video’s still bright enough to show plenty of detail. There’s improved image stabilization, so even where I was moving or turning, you can see the videos came out relatively shake free. You can capture still photos while recording video, but these are just screen captures from the video itself. So while the picture quality is good, it’s actually a 1920 x 1080 resolution image, which is around 2 megapixels rather than eight. The front FaceTime camera has finally gone HD with 720p video and 1.2 megapixel still shots. It also has a sapphire crystal lens cover just like the rear one. The 720p video quality is very good, and quite bright. This could be due to the added backside illumination sensor, Which gives better low light performance on the smaller sensor. Now you can also make FaceTime calls over a mobile or cellular network if there’s no wi-fi. The iPhone 5 has a 1550 mAh non-swappable battery, Slightly larger than the iPhone 4S’s 1432 mAh battery. It doesn’t seem like enough of an increase for a phone that now has 4G LTE capability and a larger screen, But battery life for the iPhone 5 is stated to be better than or at least on par with the 4S… Things like, standby time of 225 hours, Up to 8 hours talktime on 3G, And 8 hours browsing time on LTE. From my use, I found that the fully drained battery takes just two hours to charge completely. Then with really intensive use, Where I was taking photos and videos, running benchmarks, playing games, and listening to music, I managed to get around ten hours use out of the fully charged battery This was with wi-fi on and screen brightness set to automatic, And iCloud push data, and email syncing constantly active. With more normal use, I only need to charge the phone once every morning. I have some usage figures that will give you an idea of how the battery does during common activities. These were done with all network connections, including wi-fi, turned off and screen brightness set to 50 percent. So, ten minutes of recording a 1080p movie with the rear camera drained the battery by 4 percent. Ten minutes of playing graphic intensive games like Infinity Blade 2 and RipTide, drained the battery by 3 percent. A less graphic intensive game, like Temple Run, drained battery by 2 percent in ten minutes. Ten minutes of browsing with wi-fi turned on used 1 percent battery. Ten minutes watching a 1080p movie used 1 percent battery. The same for reading an ebook and answering a call, Both used 1 percent battery in ten minutes. Listening to music for ten minutes drained half a percent of battery. The iPhone 5 has very good battery life, definitely helped a lot by the tight integration between software and hardware. There’s no doubt that the iPhone 5 is the best iPhone so far. The upgrades it received, like the 4 inch screen, 4G LTE, and a faster processor weren’t surprising or revolutionary, but quite necessary, I think. Without these the iPhone would have felt dated among the current selection of smartphones. As it is, the iPhone 5 as a whole package is sleek, light, and super fast. A lot of attention to detail has gone into the redesign this year. If you’re looking for a smartphone that’s solid, and fits comfortably in your hand and pocket, then the iPhone 5 is a good choice. But if lots of screen space is your priority then there are other great phones to consider. Also, with the iPhone 5 you’ll be in the iOS6 environment, And that’s more fixed in it’s looks and function, and not as customizable as Android. However, the iOS app store does offer more choice than other app stores at the moment.

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