Apple iPhone 5 Review

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apple iphone5 8The countdown to the press event where Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled the new iPhone 5 had Apple fan(atic)s like myself waiting on pins and needles to find out what amazing, revolutionary and insanely great features we would be offered with the new model. I had waited months, saving my Verizon upgrade to use on the new iPhone. If you are regular visitors of this site, you’ll already know that I decided not to buy the iPhone 5 and ended up buying a Samsung Galaxy S3 instead. But for the past few days I have been trying out the iPhone 5, as Verizon Wireless sent me a short term loaner. Do I regret using my 2yr upgrade on the SGS3? Keep reading to find out.

Note: Images can be clicked to view a larger size.

Hardware Specifications

Operating iOS 6
Processor: Dual-core A6
Memory: 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions available
Display: 4-inch (diagonal) widescreen Multi-Touch retina display, 1136-by-640-pixel resolution at 326 ppi, 800:1 contrast ratio (typical)
GSM model: UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 4 and 17)
CDMA model: CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B (800, 1900, 2100 MHz); UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 3, 5, 13, 25)
GSM model: UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 3, 5)
802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi (802.11n 2.4GHz and 5GHz)
Bluetooth 4.0
Digital Camera: 8.0MP, Video recording, HD (1080p) up to 30 frames per second with audio
Battery: Rechargeable lithium-ion, Talk time: up to 8 hours on 3G, up to 14 hours on 2G, standby time: up to 200 hours
Internet use: Up to 8 hours on 3G, up to 8 hours on LTE, up to 10 hours on Wi-Fi
Video playback: Up to 10 hours
Audio playback: Up to 40 hours
Size: 4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 in (123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm)
Weight: 3.95 ounces (112 grams)

Package Contents

iPhone 5
Apple Earpods with Remote and Mic
Dock Lightning Connector to USB Cable
USB Power Adapter

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Hardware Tour

At first glance, the iPhone 5 doesn’t look remarkably different than the iPhone 4S other than being noticeably longer/taller when you place the phones side by side. In the image above, the iPhone 4S is on the left, my Samsung Galaxy S3 is on the right and the iPhone 5 is sandwiched in between.

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Here we see the iPhone 4S on top of the iPhone 5. The left side has the same style mute and individual volume buttons. They are just a little smaller because the iPhone 5 is now thinner. Otherwise, they look, feel and work the same.

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The opposite side of the phone hasn’t changed either. The SIM card slot remains.

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If we navigate to the top edge, we will see some differences. The power button is there, but the earphone jack and microphone are gone.

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The earphone jack has been moved to the bottom edge of the phone, where we also find the newly designed lightning connector. I’m not sure why a USB connector needs a name like “lightning”, but this one has it.

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Although this means that existing 30pin cables and existing iPhone accessories will require an adapter, if you plan to use them with the iPhone 5, I think the new connector is a really nice improvement. Mainly because there is no polarity to it now. You can plug it in either way. The only thing that would make the new cable even better would be if it was designed like the Magsafe magnetic connector on my Macbook Air… But as is, I like the new connector. I can’t comment on the adapter as one was not included with this loaner phone.

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Another difference that I didn’t even know about till I opened the box, was the color of the metal band that wraps around the edges of the iPhone. It’s no longer silver. Now it’s Anodized black (the white version of the iPhone 5 still has silver though). The edges of the band are also beveled. Does this make it feel different than the iPhone 4S in my hand. No, not that I can tell. Like the iPhone 4S, this iPhone 5 feels very solid in hand. No flexing, creaks, cracks or rattles when squeezed or shook. It’s Gadgeteer squeeze test approved. Although this new model is longer than the previous model, it’s still pocket friendly. At least more so than my SGS3.

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The screen still uses a Retina display, which is very pleasing to the eye. Of course this one is bigger. Up .5 inches and a few hundred pixels. It’s interesting to note that the resolution is the same width (640) as the previous phone, but has an increased height of 1136 pixels, up from 960. This provides enough extra space for another row of icons. Amazing! Ok, not really.

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But the extra height does help while web browsing, email reading and book reading. Here are two screen shots comparing what you see in the iPhone 4 browser (left) to the iPhone 5 browser (right).

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The back of the phone is no longer made of glass. There’s a brushed metal plate in its place and I’m reading that it scratches pretty easily. I’m trying to be really careful with this loaner, but I think I can already see tiny scratches in the Apple logo. It also shows finger prints.

The Camera

Other than the back of the phone looking a little different now, the camera lens and LED flash are still located in the same spot as before. The iPhone 5’s iSight camera has been updated slightly. Most of the updates seem to be software related though as it’s still an 8mp camera. Claims are faster captures, better low light images, and built in panorama mode. Here are a few comparison shots between the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5.

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iPhone 4S on the left, iPhone 5 on the right.

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iPhone 4S on the left, iPhone 5 on the right. Both taken in the doorway of my office looking into the living room which has all the lights off.

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iPhone 4S on the left, iPhone 5 on the right.

I can’t really tell much of a difference… By the way, the new panorama mode is pretty darn cool. It’s easier to use than other panorama shooting modes I’ve tried. It’s not an iPhone 5 only feature though. It comes with the iOS 6 update, so you can use it if you also have an iPhone 4S.


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Another update is that the iconic Apple earbuds have been redesigned and renamed. Now called Earpods, they feature unique side slots that are supposed to funnel the sound into your ears better. They actually sound quite good to my ears. Crisp, clear and with just enough bass not to be muddy. Comfort seems improved a bit as well. I probably would not go out and buy a pair of Earpods just to have them, but they do make a better than average free pack in. I like them much more than in-ear style buds.

Performance, Calling, LTE and Battery Life

The iPhone 5 uses an A6 processor and it is noticeably snappy. Apps load eye blink quick and browsing via WiFi and Verizon’s 4G with Safari is quite speedy as well. Booting from completely powered off, the 5 beats the 4S by as much as 15 seconds. I have no complaints at all with system speed.

Now that the iPhone finally has 4G, it just feels faster at anything that requires data too.

And of course, the phone works well as a … phone. Who knew? Calls are clear on the caller and receiver’s end and I have no complaints about call audio volume.

I can’t comment on battery life because I haven’t had the phone long enough to really get a good grasp on how well or not well it’s doing. It feels similar to the 4S and my SGS3. 1-1.5 days per charge depending of course how many calls, surfing, wifi, music you listen to.

Bottom Line

Everyone seemed very surprised when I decided not to upgrade from my Apple iPhone 4S to the new iPhone 5. It’s not that I think the iPhone 5 is a bad phone. Not at all. It’s an Apple product. So it’s sexy and well built with apps and accessories galore. The problem for me is that this model isn’t really that much different than the previous model. 4G, thinner, lighter, a littler faster, bigger display, new dock connector and new style earbuds are the updates. Yes, there’s a new version of iOS, but you can get that on the iPhone 4/4S too. So the desire for the new phone wasn’t there for me and for that reason, I decide to skip it. At least for now. Maybe I’ll get the iPhone 5S next year. Or maybe I’m sticking with Android for awhile. It’s hard to say as I change my mind as often as I change my socks 🙂

My advice to those of you thinking about buying an iPhone 5 is to go for it if you don’t already have an iPhone 4S. If you do, I’d suggest waiting till the next model bump.

Lens flare issue

iphone 5 purple hazeIn response to a reader’s question, Julie asked me if I had experienced the purple haze in photos taken by my iPhone 5 when the light source was near the edge of the image.  I hadn’t been able to get a good picture outside because of our cloudy skies, but I took a photo using my desk lamp as the source.  As you can see, I get a definite purple glow from the lamp in this photo taken about 3 feet away from the light source.  Lens flare is pretty common in lenses though, so it’s definitely not just an iPhone 5 problem.  Janet


Product Information

Price:$199 - $399
Retailer:Verizon Wireless
  • 4G LTE
  • Larger display
  • Faster
  • Thinner
  • Back surface easily scuffed

24 thoughts on “Apple iPhone 5 Review”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. Although the new Lightning connector is nice and folks don’t have to worry about which end to connect to the iPhone, the other end of the cable is still a standard USB which means it can only go in one way.

  3. The Lightning connector isn’t a USB connector any more than the previous dock connector was: It can do USB, but it appears to support video and other types of connections. (Even if there may not be cords for them yet.)

    And SK: She means there is no ‘top’ or ‘bottom’ to the connector: If you take it out and flip it over it will still work.

  4. Coming from Palm OS to Windows Mobile to Android (Gingerbread, ICS, and JellyBean(Nexus 7)), I’m enamored with the iPhone 5. There are three main reasons I’ve switched.
    1. App Support – all of the best apps are available for Apple devices. Some have Android alternatives, but they lack in functionality and/or are poor copies. Example: I have a 17 month old that knows his way around the app, but it’s not available on Android at all. Light meter apps work appropriately versus possibly not working or being inaccurate.
    2. Accessories – I’ve always been jealous of all the cool gidgets and gadgets that are available for iPhones. Depending on your Android phone of choice, there may be little to no accessories at all. Also, iPhone cases galore.
    3. Stability – I’m a systems/network administrator by day and I’m constantly on-call. Every Android device I’ve used gets slower and less stable over time, even if I hard reset and install essential apps (Citrix, Netflix). Quite a few times, when receiving a call, I couldn’t even click accept. I’ve had similar problems over three different Android phones (two HTCs and a Samsung).

    I’ve been using the iPhone more and the battery life has been better than any of my older smartphones (except Palm).
    It’s easier to use one-handed; I was used to the larger 4.3″ screens but it was still a bit cumbersome.
    The call quality is dramatically better; the sound is clear and distortion free.
    I really do like the lightning connector; micro-USB required feeling the connector for the two spiky hooks to know which way was up (or is it down?). @SK – for me, the USB side stays in the AC charger.
    Regarding the weight, at first it felt light and a little dainty, but now it’s normal. Instead, every other phone I pick up feels like a purposeful paperweight.
    I’m still getting used to this but the home button is a boon. No more reaching to the top to wake the device (trying to break that habit).
    Nothing beats a physical silence switch. I haven’t had that convenience since the Treo 800w and find myself smiling when I flick the switch before meetings.
    We’re taking many more pictures and videos since the quality is more than acceptable.
    Group iMessages works surprisingly well.

    What do I miss from Android? Swipe to clear notifications, calendar widgets on homescreen, free Wi-Fi tethering, and Google integration.

    A lot of the benefits for me is moving from Android to iOS. Would I upgrade from the 4S? If I could sell it and get the 5 at a new contract price, most likely yes. Full price, probably not.

    1. @Kismet I agree with you about a lot of what you said. Definitely about wanting/needing a home button. That’s one reason I have switched to the SGS3. And another reason why I switched was for the homescreen widgets. As for the applications argument, that used to be a favorite of mine, but anymore I don’t find it to be true. It seems that the same apps are available on both operating systems. At least the apps I tend to use.

  5. I upgraded from a 4 to 5, and both installed IOs 6, both connected to Wifi at home and both with notification function on, I notice that the 4 display the notifcation at least 10 seconds faster than the 5. I dont know if this is just my phone’s problem or the 5 had reception problem.

  6. I currently have an iphone 4 (after using blackberry’s for years), and I really like the phone. A guy at work has the Samsung and it’s also very nice, sharp screen, thin, and really really BIG. I’m a big guy with big hands and I feel the Samsung is just too wide. I’m due for an upgrade in March, and currently I’m leaning towards the iPhone (I figure by that time it will be easy to get), but you never know. And the panorama mode is not part of the 6.0 os on the iphone 4.

  7. One reason I upgraded my iPhone 4 to iOS 6 was the panorama camera feature. Now I’m seeing in the commercials in small print that it will work on 4S, but not the 4, and I can confirm that from my own upgrade. Disappointing. I do like the swipe to ignore a call feature.

    One other item I’ll throw out is that today all my emails that are pushed to the iPhone (5 of them), indicated the password was incorrect. It took me over an hour of researching forums and the like to get them back to normal, and a reset did not do the trick. The forums are galore with glitches not worked out yet by Apple.

    If you are the owner of a 4S or 4, you may want to wait to upgrade after the bugs are worked out, because many are reporting difficulties with Wi-Fi, email issues, and other quirks that seem to have no solution.

    Other than the email issue today, iOS 6 has been fine, but like you, I am not sold on the iPhone 5 enough to use an upgrade and will keep the 4 for a while longer.

  8. @Janet Cloninger Thanks for the link. I did not know about that feature. I upgraded to 6.0 on an Iphone 4, so the documentation was limited (or if it was there I didn’t read it). Made my day!!


  9. @Dave Marcus I’m glad the link was helpful. I had an iPhone 4, too, and I found that most of the new iOS 6 features were available to me on my old phone. I upgraded anyway, but other than Siri and panoramic photos, the old phones got most of the new software features.

  10. I went from Treo 755 to Palm Pre, to Pre 2, an iPhone 4S. I’m on Sprint, who has the slowest 3G, and most limited LTE/4G coverage. My only complaint about the 4S is that the Sprint network is slow, but they don’t have LTE here yet. I am waiting for them to roll out LTE to my area before considering an upgrade to the 5, and by then it might be close enough to just get the 5S or 6 or whatever next year’s iPhone is going to be.

    The extra pixels on the screen look nice and the phone is pretty, but it just doesn’t seem to be worth the upgrade to then have to replace all of my cables, docks, speaker docks, etc. after only one year with an iPhone. I also have a The New iPad that I bought a couple months ago so I’ll still need my dock connector cables regardless.

    1. @Orlando I didn’t notice it on the few sample images I snapped. I had to send the phone back to Verizon today, so I won’t be able to do any more testing…

      Janet, does your iPhone 5 have the Jimmy Hendrix problem?

  11. @Julie @ Orlando Purple haze all in my brain – and my photos. It’s been so cloudy here that I hadn’t really tried it outdoors, but I have a desk lamp that’s extremely bright and used it. I’ve got a very, very noticeable purple haze around the light source when the source is to the side of my photo. I cropped the image so you can’t see my address in the mail in my desk organizer under the image, but you can very clearly see the haze. I can send it to you, Julie, if you want to add it to the review. (Or I could do it, if you want me to.)

  12. I have the purple haze in a few of my photos. Bright lights and certain spectrums of fluorescence seem to trigger it.

  13. @aphoid: I was with Sprint for 10yrs. LTE is at least 2 years away for me so I switched to AT&T (LTE in December 2012) and got iPhone5. Sprint is just too slow, especially for anything streaming or browers.

    Only thing (so far) I regret is that I got the 32gb and should have got 64gb. Now I have to figure out how to use GV and a PAYG phone and return/re-order iPhone within 30 days so I can get a new iPhone which is likely to take 3-4 weeks:(( I wish they had them at the stores right now (all store stock is getting eaten up by online orders).

    It is so smooth and assured that I am quickly forgetting about all the bells and whistles of my Android. I never saw battery sitting at 100% for so long:) And YES!!! my ThinkOutside/Stowaway/iGo Ultra-Slim BlueTooth keyboard works with it!

  14. I got my wife an iPhone5, which she loves. I personally prefer a larger screen, so I’m sticking with my Galaxy Nexus. I also don’t like that the Verizon iPhone5 doesn’t let you talk and transfer LTE data at the same time (though that’s not an issue for her). As far as iOS vs Android goes, there are pros and cons of each:

    I like Android’s widgets, the notification bar is slick (especially Jelly Bean), and integration with Google calendar is superior. There are things you can do with Android out of the box that require Jailbreaking under iOS, such as Swype. And of course Google Maps for Android destroys both Google and Apple Maps for iOS. To be fair to Apple Maps, it’s fine for most uses and its 3D views are awesome for walking around in a city (until you need Transit directions).

    On the other hand, iOS is more fluid (even compared to Jelly Bean), most apps are more polished, iMessage and Facetime are effortless, there are still some iOS apps that don’t exist on Android (though most have equivalents at this point), Android is buggy with Bluetooth (though Jelly Bean doesn’t crash nearly as often as 4.0.4 did), and Android’s power management is crap: navigation kills it in 90 minutes, even if the screen is left off for most of that. Though it’s nice to be able to carry a spare battery, it’s even nicer to not need one so often.

  15. Julie, I could have sworn I read an update or entry about your deciding to go back to iphone after all (after the SGS3) but I can’t find it? Am I mistaken?

  16. The iphone 5 is a fantastic work of art. Compared to it, the android phones including the Galaxy S3 seem unpolished, inelegant and plastic disposables. It was easy for Samsung to install the same speed chip but I guess it is much harder to copy Apple’s trademark refinement and attention. Congrats to Apple on a superlative phone.

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