The new iPhone 5 is coming with a brand new design with an aluminum instead of glass back, but the biggest shocker for everyone who got to spend time with it is just how light the device feels. Yet Apple’s premium choice of materials makes it feel exceptionally sturdy. Kudos to Jony Ive and his team once again.
The new 4-inch screen is taller but not wider. For most reviewers that was a great new addition, but - fair enough - some mention that reading, browsing and watching movies on larger displays is a much more enjoyable experience. The downside of those bigger screens? They are not that easy to operate with one hand and might look just a bit too big when held in public.
letterboxed apps. What are those? With the increased screen size, Apple is still supporting older third-party applications but it’s not automatically stretching them to fit the screen, but instead puts two black bars on top and bottom, a letterbox, much like iPhone apps appear on the iPad. After time, some of the nearly 700,000 apps on the App Store will be updated to fit the 4-inch screen, but right now this is definitely an inconvenience.
Another big annoyance for most in the tech press was the change of connectors. Apple’s new 8-pin Lightning connector is smaller and more comfortable to use (it’s reversible, plugs on both sides), but it requires a $30 adaptor to work with your existing accessories. Have a couple of them? Get ready to spend almost as much on adaptors as you did on the phone. Still, it’s a painful but necessary progress.
Software-wise, you get iOS 6 which is a small, gradual improvement of iOS that will be remembered for growing more distanced from Google apps like YouTube and Maps, both of which are absent now. Apple is instead bringing its own Maps solution, but it’s not as good and might be one of the few disappointments users have with their new iPhone.
But those could easily be shelved as the iPhone 5 easily gets most reviewers whole-hearted recommendation as one of the best phones available on the market right now.
So here’s what the reviews say, every one with an own unique perspective.
iPhone 5 review recap
The iPhone 5 may not be terribly innovative, but it does deliver that package better than any previous Apple product, and better than just about any other smartphone.”
The letterbox mode for not-yet-updated-for-the-new-display apps kind of sucks. It’s not so much that it looks bad (my review unit is white; I’d wager money that the letterboxing is almost hard to notice visually on the black ones), but that it really throws me off while typing."
Superficially, it's hitting all the right marks, but Lightning comes up short in a number of important areas. It is, of course, incompatible with the roughly 350 million billion iPhone and iPod accessories currently on the market -- a problem mostly rectified by a $30 adapter."
These days, that decade-old iPhone/iPad/iPod charging connector is everywhere: cars, clocks, speakers, docks, even medical devices. … If you have a few accessories, you could easily pay $150 in adapters for a $200 phone. That’s not just a slap in the face to loyal customers — it’s a jab in the eye."
On the software front the story isn't as cut and dry. Change isn't always necessary, nor needed, but if there were things you didn't like in iOS 5, chances are they will still be here in iOS 6. Microsoft's Windows phone trounces iOS 6 on the social connected stakes even though Apple has added Facebook this time around. BlackBerry's BB10 OS, due out in February 2013, beats it on the email and messaging integration (we've played with the OS already), and Android is perfect for those that want customisation and control beyond choosing wallpapers."
Unfortunately, [Apple’s Maps app] it’s not perfect. The excellent mass transit mode in Google Maps has no counterpart in Apple Maps, so there’s no way to plan journeys that include bus, train, or other public transportation. Apple currently expects third-party apps to fill that gap."
But a lot has changed in a year, and the current crop of Android superphones – and the incoming Windows Phone 8 handsets – have closed the gap. For nearly every “new” feature announced at the Keynote, there was a Samsung, Android, Windows, Nokia, Sony or HTC fan saying “my phone already does that.”
Apple Maps will divide opinion. Even with some nice features the search functionality seems hit and miss in terms of finding London locations. It displays more road names than place names and colour-coded roads have gone, so navigating to a specific point via pinch and zoom is trickier."
It's also probably the most beautiful smartphone anyone has ever made."
Apple’s take on the feature is the best I’ve seen in a camera phone. Maybe in a camera, period: It’s easy, smooth and fast, and remarkably resistant to unsightly stitching glitches."