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iPhone 5 vs iPhone 4S

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The Apple iPhone 5 is here, and it’s arguably the biggest change in the series since the iPhone 4 hit the scene back in 2010. A new design, a larger screen and a much faster processor all feature. But how does it really stack up against the previous iPhone 4S? Is it really worth the upgrade? We take a closer look at each aspect of the phone to find out.

Check out our full iPhone 5 review >

Video comparison

Not in the mood for a read? We've made a video comparing the iPhone 5 and 4S. It only takes a couple of minutes to see the benefits the new model offers. However, if you want a bit more detail, read on.



Reception and Sales

Aside from claims that they weren't exicitng or different enough from their predecessors, the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 launches largely flew by without too many problems. The iPhone 5 sold five million units in its first weekend, topping the four million the iPhone 4S sold in its first few days.

The biggest scandal of Apple devices in recent times is one that affects both the iPhone 5 and 4S - iOS Maps. Apple has ditched Google Maps to produce its own service, and it's pretty ropey at present, with mis-named towns and plenty of missing or faulty information.

Design

iPhone 5 - 7.6mm thick, aluminium casing, non-removable battery
iPhone 4S - 9.3mm thick, glass front and back, steel slides, non-removable battery

The iPhone 5 takes the phone range in a slightly different direction, in terms of looks. It's not any wider than the 4S, but it is longer, letting Apple pack in a larger screen without dramatically changing the ergonomics of the device. Apple's new approach also lets the iPhone 5 get a little thinner - 7.6mm instead of 9.3mm.
iPhone 5 4
A slimmer design might make you assume the phone will be harsher and more severe-feeling in-hand, but the opposite is true. The phone now has bevelled edges rather than the sharp-ish sides of the iPhone 4S.  The previous glass rear of the phone has gone too, replaced by a special metal back - it's nowhere near as shatter-prone as the 4S.

However, if you're upgrading from the old model, you may find the iPhone 5 disconcertingly light. The metal used in the phone is aluminium, rather than the steel used for the sides of the iPhone 4S. Aluminium is much lighter than steel, and also less hard. It's easier to scratch too, something that almost started a scandal during the early days of the phone's life.

Some things never change, though. You don't have access to the battery, or any of the phone's internals.

Screen

iPhone 5 - 4in, 640 x 1136 (widescreen), IPS
iPhone 4S - 3.5in, 640 x 960, IPS

The iPhone screen is finally getting a bit bigger. It has been 3.5in ever since the first iPhone was released in 2007, but the big A has finally relented and got on board with the big-screen trend - a little, at least. iPhone 5 3
Apple's fifth iPhone uses a 4in screen, of 640 x 1,136 pixels. Pixel density and screen width are identical to the iPhone 4S's, but the aspect has changed - the iPhone 5 is much more widescreen than the older iPhones. This will come in handy for movie-watching, and also helps out a bit with games, as there's a wider expanse of screen that won't be blocked by your fingers.

The core display technology hasn’t changed hugely, at least not from the end user's point of view. Both the iPhone 5 and 4S use IPS-variant screens, which offer great viewing angles and good colour reproduction. The iPhone 4S screen was great and - guess what - the iPhone 5 screen is great too.

There area technical breakthroughs in the screen, but most aren't all that visible to the naked eye. Most notably, the screen architecture is more advanced, letting it become skinnier, helping to shave those extra fractions of a millimetre off the body.

Why not read our iPhone 5 review?

Power

iPhone 5
- dual-core 1.2GHz Apple A6 processor, 1GB RAM
iPhone 4S - dual-core 1GHz Apple A5 processor, 512MB

Looking at the pure numbers, the iPhone 5 processor doesn't sound that much more powerful than the iPhone 4S's. It's a 1.2GHz dual-core model, against the iPhone 4S's dual-core 1GHz type. However, benchmarks reveal that the iPhone 5 is much, much more powerful than the previous model.
Apple iPhone 5 Official Picture
At the launch of the phone, Apple claimed it's twice as fast as the previous model, and that's not far off the reality. How come? The Apple A6 processor uses a new chip architecture that's far more efficient than the old type.

Unlike some top Android phones, the power is worthwhile here too. Many game developers offers extra graphical loveliness for the iPhone 5. Expect better lighting, better water effect and more detailed textures in games. Not all games, mind, and the iPhone 4S is new enough to run any game (to our knowledge) at present.

Connectivity

iPhone 5
- mini 8-pin Lightning port, nano-SIM, no microSD, 4G option
iPhone 4S - 30-pin port, microSIM, no microSD

One of the most earth-shaking changes in the iPhone 5 is one that many people won't be too excited about, and some may even dislike. Apple has switched from the great big 30-pin connector, which has been in use for aeons, to a much smaller 8-pin type. This is roughly the size of a microUSB port, although this is proprietary all the way. Yes, it's a pain, but did you really expect anything else?

Apple calls it the Lightning port, and it's also used in the latest iPod touch and the iPad 4. It's a much slicker design, but it has already had industry-wide knock-on effects. All those charge docks and audio docks will no longer work, although Apple will offer a converter that will sit between the old 30-pin socket docks and the new iPhone 5's port.
iPhone 5 6
The SIM gone on a diet too. Last year, we thought the microSIM of the iPhone 4S was small, but the teeny iPhone 5 nano-SIM makes it look positively gigantic. The nano-SIM is 12.3mm by 8.8mm and is exceedingly slim. You can manually make a nanoSIM out of a microSIM, but you risk ruining your SIM, and we advise asking your network for a new one.

Both these phones will come in 4G flavours in the UK, courtesy of EE. However, going 4G is quite pricey in the UK. Plans start at £26 a month on a SIM only deal, and that involves a data limit of 500MB, which won't go very far with a 4G-speed connection.

We tested out EE's 4G network recently and got speeds approaching 30Mbps. At full speed that'll drain your allowance in under five minutes.

Storage

iPhone 5 -
16/32/64GB, non-expandable
iPhone 4S - 16/32/64GB, non-expandable

The storage ceiling of the iPhone 5 has not moved above the 64GB offered by the top model iPhone 4S. It's likely down to the price of flash memory not having dropped to a sufficiently low price to make a 128GB iPhone 5 cost less than… the moon. We're left with the usual roster of 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models.
iPhone 5 7
These days, Apple only offers a 16GB iPhone 4S, under the presumption that if you'd be willing to spend more, you might as well buy an iPhone 5 instead. As usual, you can't expand upon the memory with an iPhone 5. It's just not how Apple rolls. It's a sound policy.

The only iPhone with less than 16GB of memory is the 8GB iPhone 4, the "budget" option. However, this won't go very far if you like your games as many are over 1GB these days.

Camera

iPhone 5 - 8MP, LED flash
iPhone 4S - 8MP, LED flash

One part of the phone that hasn't been given a massive upgrade is the camera. Both phones use 8-megapixel sensors and single-LED flashes. However, Apple has redesigned the lens - it's now a Sapphire lens, which should result in better image quality than the iPhone 4S can provide.  
iPhone 5 1

Apps, Games and Software

iPhone 5 - iOS 6, App Store
iPhone 4S - iOS 6, App Store

In terms of apps, games and software, the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S are virtually identical. Both use iOS 6, both get apps from the App Store. There are just a few slight tweaks in the latest iPhone.

As we've already said, some game developers offer iPhone 5-optimised graphics, making use of the "twice as fast" processor. The main iOS interface is ever-so-slightly different too. You get an extra row of icons on the home screen of an iPhone 5, to make use of the longer screen. Other than that they're identical twins.

Verdict

The iPhone 5 is undoubtedly the biggest update the series has had since the iPhone 4 turned up with its non-curvy design back in 2010. Its larger screen alone is enough to justify its existence. But is it a must-have upgrade? If you're not the type that needs to have every gadget as it's released, there's no great rush. The best bits of the iPhone 5 will only show themselves once devs have gotten a hold on that extra screen space.

Check out our iPhone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S3 head to head

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