iPhone 5 Review: Refined, Mastered, and Perfected
The iPhone 5 is set to officially launch here in the Philippines on December 14, 2012. Both telcos, Smart and Globe, will be offering it via postpaid plans (they have pre-registration pages up) and prepaid kits. We’ve had an iPhone 5 with us for over two months now and I think it turned out for the best that we delated writing this review because we had so much time to play around with the device that it gave us a lot of insights that I think we would have missed if we wrote this after just a week of use. Read on for our full, comprehensive, and detailed review of the Apple iPhone 5!
SEE ALSO: Smart and Globe iPhone 5 Postpaid Plans
iPhone 5 Spec Sheet
- A6 Chip (2x Faster than the A5 Chip)
- 4-inch Retina Display, 1136 x 640 pixels (~326 PPI)
- 20% Lighter and 18% Thinner compared to the iPhone 4
- 2G, EDGE, 3G, HSPA+, LTE
- 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, 3264×2448, dynamic low light mode, panorama 5-element lens, f2.4 aperture
- Records 1080p, take photos while shooting videos
- Front-facing FaceTime HD camera with 720p support
- New Connector called Lightning
- Facetime over 3G
- iOS 6
- Better Speakers
Triumph of Industrial Engineering and Design
Just like what Paolo said in our video podcast, the iPhone 5 is stunningly beautiful. It’s crazy thin and light but still feels solid and very premium, thanks to the aluminum used for the body. There’s no cheap and soft plastic here folks. It’s all high grade stuff! Johnny Ive should win awards for industrial engineering and design for this one.
In terms of buttons and ports you get all the usual stuff. There’s still a physical home button at the front below the 4-inch display. The front-facing HD iSight camera is at the top (just above the LED notification and the receiver). Volume rocker and the mute control is at the left, the sleep/wake at the top, SIM tray at the right, and the headphone jack, Lightning Connector, and speaker grills at the bottom. At the back you’ll find the 8-megapixel shooter, a small microphone (will get to this later) and flash.
One of the most hyped feature of the iPhone 5 is the bigger display. Apple decided to do the increase differently though. Unlike other manufacturers who increase the height and the width, Apple decided to keep the width and just make the phone taller. Their rationale, based on their videos, is that they want to keep the iPhone 5 useable with just one-hand. After using the iPhone 5 for a couple of months now we can definitely understand where Apple is coming from. Unlike the 4.5-5.0 inch ‘Droids out there, you can comfortably text and navigate your phone with an effortless one-hand swipe. It all boils down to personal preference though as some people really like bigger displays (like me).
In summary, if you’re an Apple fan, you’ll absolutely love and enjoy the iPhone 5’s form factor and design. It’s familiar but definitely refined and almost perfected!
Blazing fast, smooth, and lag-free
Apple used a much faster processor for the iPhone 5 with the A6 chip. This supposedly has a dual-core CPU with quad-core graphics. When it comes to user it translates to the smoothest and most flawless experience ever. Where is this more evident? Here’s a quick list of noticeable improvements in actual uses that we’ve experienced:
- You can shoot multiple pictures at a “machine-gun” like rate.
- Barely any lag at all when launching and exiting apps.
- Messages and Contacts open up fast even if they have thousands of stuff in there.
- Switching Calendar views has zero lag in transition
- Graphics intensive apps don’t bog down or lag anymore. Great upgrade for gamers.
- Photo and movie editing apps are faster and more responsive.
The A6 Chip is a very welcome upgrade and hopefully this paves the way for even better apps (especially games) this coming year!
Clear call quality
One sweet feature (but very underrated) that we noticed is how clear the calls are on the iPhone 5. When we researched about this by watching the Keynote again apparently this is by design. There’s a microphone in between the camera lens and the flash at the back. This microphone gets all the ambient noise and then digitally reduces it so that you can focus just on the voice of the person you’re talking to. Good job on this one Apple!
App Store is an unlimited source of entertainment and information
When it comes to apps, the App Store is still king of the hill. Google Play still has a lot of catching up to do because developers tend to focus on creating stuff for iOS first before them. Even in updates of apps developers deliver iOS first. There are a lot of games that have more features in iOS than their counterparts in Google Play. There are also a lot of games that are just on iOS.
We’ll do a separate post on the best apps you can use for your iPhone 5 but generally here’s a quick list:
- Fantastical – one of the best calendar apps.
- Clear – one of the best to-do apps.
- Camera+ – arguably the best photo editor on a mobile device.
- Infinity Blade II – for the hardcore gamer in you.
- Flipboard and Pulse – really great RSS reader apps. Very visual and awesome user interface.
- YouTube – you have to download this because it doesn’t come default anymore in your iPhone 5
- Dropbox – for transferring files using the Cloud.
- Evernote – this, for me, is the best note taking cloud-based app. Can’t believe it’s free!
- Angry Birds Star Wars – the awesomest Angry Birds yet!
- Kingdom Rush – our favorite strategy game!
Watch out for our more comprehensive iPhone 5 app roundup this weekend!
You’ll love the Lightning Connector
The shift from the traditional 30-pin Apple connector to the Lightning Connector netted Apple a lot of criticism and allegations that they’re just out to make more money with accessories. I was thinking the same thing but after using the iPhone 5 for more than 2 months we can definitely say that Apple did the right thing.
First, the Lightning Connector can connect to the port regardless what side is facing up. This is soooooo simple but believe me when I say that you’ll appreciate this change as the weeks go by. It really is so much more convenient. Secondly, most of the speaker docks these days have Bluetooth integrated into them anyway. Just connect via Bluetooth instead of docking your phone. Besides, how many times have you removed the iPhone from the dock because you got a call or text? It makes more sense to stream music via Bluetooth or AirPlay.
The only issue with the Lightning Connector is that you have to get rid of your earlier cables and buy the new ones, especially if you’re the type that prefers to have several cables.
Camera is one of the best we’ve ever seen on a smartphone
The iPhone 5 also sports an 8-megapixel shooter with improved optics. The upgrade, according to Phil Schiller in his Keynote speech, results to better low-light photos and macro shots. We agree with him whole heartedly. Click here to view a gallery of photos we took during a fashion show event. The photos came out beautifully despite the lighting condition.
iOS 6 also gave the iPhone the Panorama shot. Finally!
Battery life is average for smartphones
If there’s one area that the iPhone 5 seriously needs improvement on it’s the battery life. It’s basically the same amount of juice you get from the iPhone 4S (which isn’t that impressive). If you have 3G and WiFi on you’ll barely last the whole day without needing a charge. If you’re going to use the iPhone 5 as your primary phone be sure to invest in mobile chargers.
Note that we tested battery with just 3G/HSPA+. I’m not so sure how bad it will become once Apple activates the LTE connectivity with the local networks.
What happened to LTE?
Unfortunately when the iPhone 5 launches it won’t have LTE connectivity. According to our research Apple still needs to test the 4G networks of the telcos. As soon as they get approved though all it will take is just a software update to turn on the LTE connection. Our sources say that this should be done by first quarter next year.
Siri is just a novelty and no use yet for PassBook
We finally found a use for Siri! iOS 6 gave the iPhone 5 the ability to launch apps using Siri. You can just hold the home button until Siri comes out and just say the name of the app you want to launch. Definitely useful especially if you’re driving or just plain lazy (lol).
Other than that though Siri is really more of a novelty than a functional tool. We rarely used it with the iPhone 4S and we don’t think we will use it often as well with the iPhone 5.
iOS 6 also brought PassBook, which is supposed to be the one-stop shop for all of your passes. Unfortunately this only works in establishments in the US right now.
Still the best mobile music jukebox
When it comes to playing media, the iPhone 5 still has one of the best jukeboxes around. This is mainly due to the tight integration between iTunes and the Music Player. Syncing is effortless and you can just buy music using the iTunes store with one click. The music quality is also superb especially if you compare it to the default music players of Android devices which tend to have lower volume output (this cam be remedied with apps or rooting though but not everyone can do that).
One new feature that iOS 6 brought that I appreciate a lot is the “Do Not Disturb” function. I hate it when my I’m listening to my favorite song and it gets interrupted with notifications from Facebook, Twitter, or Messages. Just turn this on and you’re good to go (Settings -> Do Not Disturb On).
Pricing and Availability
Thanks to the competition between Smart and Globe, the iPhone 5 is actually affordable. However you’ll have to lock yourself into the contract of either telco. For a comparison of the rates of the networks, click here. Among all the plans though I’d recommend the iPhone Plan 2499 of Smart. This gets you a 32GB iPhone 5, 300 texts, 300 minutes calls, and unlimited data. That should be more than enough for you especially the storage part (32GB! Yay).
So… should you get one? Well if you’re an Apple fan, the answer is obvious. No matter what we say you’ll end up getting it anyway. There seems to be a strong emotional connection between Apple and their fans that can’t be affected by whatever form of logic and reasoning, hehe. What you should be thinking about though is from what network you want to get it from. Remember that no matter how great your smartphone is, it’s kinda crappy if you don’t have a reliable network.
For those practical peeps out there, note that most of the software features we talked about are available already with the iPhone 4S thanks to the iOS 6 update. The real differences though from the 4S to the 5 are the better camera, faster processor, and the bigger 4-inch screen. If those three features are important for you, then go for it! It’s kinda a no-brainer especially given the affordable postpaid plans.