So the iPhone 5 has impressed with its ease of use and design, though tripped up on its durability, but perhaps for most people the purchase decision will actually comes down to whether they care about its missing features.
First up are the familiar iPhone complaints of no expandable storage by way of a microSD slot – you buy a 16GB phone, that’s as much storage as you’ll ever get – and the inability to remove the battery, meaning you can’t keep a spare battery for emergencies or long trips.
Then there are the more modern additions of NFC and wireless charging. The latter is still pretty rare, but we’ve seen a few devices with it now, including the Nokia Lumia 920, and it's certainly something we'd like to see more of. NFC, though, is something we’re really quite miffed not to see included.
Not only is NFC really useful as a way of quickly and easily paying for things by just tapping your phone against the card machine/till (assuming it's contactless payment enabled of course) but it has loads of other cool uses too. You can touch phones together to exchange contact details, instantly pair with a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi device simply by waving them near each other. The list goes on.
Apple has publicly said it simply doesn’t believe NFC is needed right now, and it’s probably right given support is still growing. But, having participated in Visa and Samsung’s contactless payment trial over the summer, paying for goods with a Samsung Galaxy S3, we can definitely say we’re converts of the technology.
Hardware features aside, there's also the locked down nature of the operating system, which is much less customisable than Android in particular. With the latter you can install new keyboards, change the style of the homescreens and 'side-load' apps (install apps not bought through an app store), plus of course you don't have to use iTunes. For many people the ease of use of the iPhone wins over but once you've started down the path of tinkering with Android there's no going back to the walled-garden of Apple.
Finally we come to price, and guess what? The iPhone 5 is kind of expensive. That’s the short version. The long version is that it’s quite expensive for what you’re getting in terms of features.
When first launched, bought SIM-free it was priced reasonably competitively at £529 for the 16GB version, comparing to ~£500 for the 16GB Samsung Galaxy S3 or 32GB HTC One X. However, most competing devices have dropped in price to more like ~£400. Plus, both these alternatives technically have more features and the S3 can have its storage upgraded to 48GB for the £30 price of a microSD card. In contrast a 32GB iPhone 5 costs £599 and a 64GB model a staggering £699.
It was the case that contract prices made the situation even worse for the iPhone 5 but as contract prices across the board have gone up it actually fares a bit better with both it and the Galaxy S3 being free on ~£40pm, 24 month contracts. But, nonethless, the iPhone 5 is still the most expensive going so remains a bit of a luxury even when compared to its rivals.
Apple has impressed us again with its latest iPhone, producing a phone that stands head and shoulders above the competition when it comes to industrial design. It’s slimmer, lighter and better looking than before, and yet it packs in a larger screen and faster processor. The new panorama mode on the camera is also superb, the new Earpods are a nice improvement and with GoogleMaps now available, navigation is once again top notch too. If you’re not one for tinkering or chasing the latest technologies, and if you can afford it, the iPhone 5 is the one to get.
That said, with poor durability, NFC missing, and only minor software additions, its premium price does seem a bit galling. What’s more, if you are looking for something that pushes boundaries in terms of features you’ll be disappointed. No single hardware or software feature here stands out from the crowd aside from that design.