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iPhone 5 Review - Hands On
So the iPhone 5 has finally been unveiled along with a new iPod touch, new iPod nano, new iTunes and new earbuds called Earpods. But, has it all been worth the wait? We got hands on with the new phone to find out.
For a full list of iPhone 5 news and features >
iPhone 5 Design
If there's one thing Apple can generally be relied on to get right it's design, and so it is here. The new iPhone 5 has the same industrial design vibe as the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S but instead of a glossy glass front and back the new model has an etched aluminium finish on its rear. This we think looks even better and makes it more practical too - it feels more secure in the hands and doesn't slide off every surface know to man.
Further enhancing ergonomics are the new bevelled edges. Whereas on the iPhone 4 and 4S the steel band that wraps around the handset is raised from the edges of the phone, creating an uncomfortable step, here the gap is filled with a sloping edge. It's still a fairly sharp edge, though, so if you were after a phone with sexy curves you'll be disappointed here.
Apple has also tweaked much of the rest of the physical design. The front facing camera now sits above the earpiece, the speaker and main microphone have larger drilled grilles covering them, and the headphone jack now sits on the bottom edge.
Having the headphone on the bottom does seem a bit odd at first but it actually makes sense in day to day use. When held the headphone cable hangs downwards out the way and when you go to put the phone into or take it out of a pocket you don't have to change your grip to do so - give it a go and you'll see what we mean.
iPhone 5 Lightning Connector
The other really obvious design change is the new Lightning connector – yup, that's Thunderbolt for computers and Lightning for mobile devices. The new connector is tiny, at about 1mm thick and 6mm wide. It also plugs in both ways round. Combined with its tiny proportions this makes it really easy to plug in and out.
It's essentially just a USB 3.0 port but Apple has put its own spin on the design, in part to make it even thinner than the likes of microUSB. This in turn has also allowed Apple to make the phone thinner and lighter.
You will of course need an adapter to connect the iPhone 5 to all your existing docks, and duly Appl has provided one. However, you do have to pay £25 for the privilege.
iPhone 5 Dimensions and Weight
Thanks in part to the use of Lightning, the iPhone 5 weighs just 112g, down from 140 for the iPhone 4S. At first the effect of this reduction in weight, combined with the larger screen size, gives that slightly unnerving 'too light' impression we complained of the Galaxy S3 having. It doesn't, however, have any creaky plastic panels - this is a seriously precision made bit of kit that takes phone build quality to another level.
At 123.8mm tall, the iPhone 5 is only 8.6mm taller than the iPhone 4S, is exactly the same width (56.8mm) and, at 7.6mm, it's actually thinner than the 9mm iPhone 4S.
Get the full iPhone 5 dimensions and specs here >
iPhone 5 Screen
The really big change with the iPhone 5, though, is of course its larger, taller screen. The iPhone 5 screen is 4in - up from 3.5in on all previous models - but rather than just increase the overall size, Apple has simply added a few rows of pixels to the top and bottom edges, making the screen the same width but slightly taller. The resultant 640 x 1136 pixel resolution (up from 640 x 960) gives it a movie and game friendly 16:9 aspect ratio and allows compatible apps to have just a bit more space to play with.
You wouldn't have thought those few pixels would make all that much difference but they do allow a surprising amount more to be squeezed onto the screen. For apps that haven't yet been made compatible, the extra pixels, top and bottom, are ignored and the app will appear in the centre as per usual.
Apple also claims the screen has 30percent better colour saturation, providing an even more vibrant look. It has also moved to a laminated screen production process that removes one of the previous layers used to construct the panel. The result is a 33percent thinner screen.
iPhone 5 A6 processor
Apple didn't give us much time to test the iPhone 5's speed out with any benchmarks but in general use it felt that bit snappier than the 4S. In particular the new Maps app was impressive. It loaded and rendered incredibly detailed 3D maps in a flash - it never gets boring, grabbing the tip of The Shard and twirling a 3D map of london around.
iPhone 5 Camera
One of the key disappointments for those excited by Nokia's recent Pureview camera technologies is that the iPhone 5 doesn't have an improved camera. The iPhone 4S did have a very good camera already but it's still a bit of a shame not to see a definitive hardware improvement.
Instead Apple has added a panorama mode, made the whole camera assembly thinner (noticing a theme here?) and added a sapphire glass cover. The latter is super tough so should keep the camera scratch free for longer, which is always nice, but it's the panorama mode that is actually the neatest feature here.
Like Sony's cameras and phones it allows you to simply pan around while taking a shot and the device will automatically stitch together the image for you. However, unlike any other automatic panorama mode we've seen before, the resultant image comes out at full resolution - 28 megapixels to be precise. We had a go with this and it is impressive how well the phone stitches together the images and how much detail is captured.
You can see us trying the panorama feature in our hands on video >
Some sample images provided by Apple:
As for video, you've got 1080p recording, just like with the iPhone 4S. Ho hum. However, the front facing iSight camera has been boosted to offer 720p video, and it can make HD FaceTime calls too.
We'll shortly be looking more in-depth at what iOS6 offers and how Apple's new handset stacks up in terms of value. But for now, we'll wrap up by saying the iPhone 5 looks like exactly what Apple needed it to be to not just drive sales but leave most customers pretty happy. The design is more practical, the larger screen even better, there's a faster processor and it's lighter. Yes, you still can't reach the battery nor add a microSD card but really at this stage it seems that only the fact that the camera is still the same will be a disappointed to those thinking of upgrading.
Excited? Disappointed? Let us know your reaction in the comments.
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