Apple iPhone 5
Apple's iPhone 5 may be the best iPhone yet, but is it the right smartphone for you?
- Super thin and light design
- Excellent 4in display
- Outstanding camera
- Scratches and chips easily
- Poor battery life
- Extra screen size isn't always utilised
The iPhone 5 is without a doubt the best iPhone Apple has produced, but anything less would have been a failure. The iPhone 5 is stunningly thin and light, has an excellent screen and an outstanding, best in class camera. Whether it is right for you, however, is a more difficult proposition.
Price$ 799.00 (AUD)
Love it or hate it, Apple's iPhone generates an extraordinary amount of hype that no other smartphone can match. In its latest iteration of arguably the world's most popular smartphone, Apple has equipped the iPhone 5 with a larger display, upgraded internals and 4G network connectivity. The iPhone 5 is without a doubt the best iPhone yet, but it's ultimately an evolutionary product rather than a revolutionary one.
Anodised aluminium design: beautiful but flawed
The iPhone 5 may look somewhat similar to the iPhone 4S, but it's not until you pick it up for the first time that you realise this is a very different beast. It's an almost identical shape to its predecessor but is significantly lighter and thinner despite having a taller screen.
There's an extraordinary attention to detail in the construction of the iPhone 5, something that most competitors lack.
The biggest design change is the glass back that was a highlight of the the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. It's been replaced by an anodised aluminium backing that is flanked by two glass strips at the top and bottom of the phone, creating a two-tone look. Most buttons are in the same place — volume keys and a silent slider switch on the left, a lock/power button on the top and a home button on the front below the screen. Even though the home button appears the same as previous models, it feels slightly more responsive to press than the one on the 4S.
The featherlight 112g weight is one of the best features of the iPhone 5. Apple deserves a huge amount of credit for managing to make the phone significantly lighter while increasing its overall footprint. The end result is a device that almost feels inviting to hold and one that's comfortable to use single-handedly. At just 7.6mm, the iPhone 5 is also one of the thinnest smartphones on the market.
Despite its light weight and thin casing, the iPhone 5 certainly doesn't feel hollow or cheap. The bevelled edges on the sides, the machine drilled speaker and microphone holes at the bottom and the glass panels at the top and the bottom of the back are typical Apple touches. There's an extraordinary attention to detail in the construction of the iPhone 5 and it's something that most competitors lack.
However, the anodised aluminium used on the back and the edges of the iPhone 5 seems to be easily scratched and marked, particularly on the black model we reviewed. The blemishes are hard to see in photos, but our review model picked up two scratches on the back and a number of small chips on the edge of the right side, towards the back.
Although these scratches and chips are relatively minor and not immediately noticeable, they are very hard to avoid. On a device that commands a significantly hefty price tag, wear and tear from a few days of careful use shouldn't be acceptable.
Nano-SIM, headphone jack and 'Lightning' port
There are a few key changes on the iPhone 5 if you're upgrading from previous iPhones. Firstly, the device uses a new SIM card called a nano-SIM. It's even smaller than a micro-SIM and it's thinner too, which makes it more difficult to cut down your old SIM to size.
Most Australian telcos will provide you a nano-SIM free of charge, so the change isn't going to be an issue for most people. The nano-SIM is accessible by using a supplied pin to pop open a SIM tray on the right side of the iPhone 5, a method no different to previous models.
Apple has moved the headphone jack on the iPhone 5 from the top to the bottom. We aren't a fan of the change but it doesn't have a significant impact on the overall use of the phone, aside from the need to put the phone in your pocket with the bottom facing up when you're using headphones. Whether you like the change or not will ultimately be a personal preference.
Of much more significance is Apple's decision to change the dock connector on the iPhone 5. Gone is the standard 30-pin connector that Apple has used in most models of its iPod, iPhone and iPad devices. Replacing this is a much smaller, 8-pin dock connector that Apple calls 'Lightning'.
The iPhone 5 doesn't charge any quicker than the iPhone 4S.
The best feature the Lightning port brings to the iPhone 5 is the ability to plug in the cable either way up, unlike the old dock connector or the industry standard micro-USB port. However, the new port means that the iPhone 5 is no longer compatible with any accessories that use the old dock connector.
Apple sells two Lightning adapters to make most of your old accessories compatible with the iPhone 5, but they aren't included in the box. In Australia, it will cost you $35 for a regular Lightning to 30-pin adapter or $45 for a Lighting to 30-pin adapter with a 0.2m cord. Despite the 'Lightning' name, the iPhone 5 doesn't charge quicker than the iPhone 4S, nor does it transfer data to and from a computer any faster than the previous dock connector.
A taller, brighter screen
The iPhone 5 has a larger 4in screen, but it's the same width as the screen on every other iPhone, only taller. Apple says the decision to keep the phone at the same width ensures that the span of a user's thumb can reach all the way across the display when using the phone single-handedly. The iPhone 5 is definitely more comfortable to use with one hand than many of its bigger rivals, including the Samsung Galaxy S III and the HTC One X.
The iPhone 5's screen has a resolution of 1136x640 but keeps the same 326ppi pixel density of the previous iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. In a side-by-side comparison with the iPhone 4S, the iPhone 5's screen is slightly brighter at the full brightness setting. It also displays deeper blacks, most notably when watching video content. These improvements aren't groundbreaking and are even less pronounced when compared to devices like the Galaxy S III, but there is no doubt the iPhone 5's screen is one of the best on the market.
In a side-by-side comparison with the iPhone 4S, the iPhone 5's screen is slightly brighter at full brightness.
The taller display means Apple has added an additional row of iOS app icons on the iPhone 5's home screen. You can also see an extra few emails in the list view and more phone numbers in a contacts list but the increased screen real estate means that developers need to update their apps to take advantage of the extra space. Apple's default apps like Safari, Mail, Calendar and Reminders obviously already take advantage of this, but many third-party apps are yet to be updated.
Apps that aren't updated remain the same size as the old iPhone, with black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. They aren't too noticeable on the black iPhone 5, but they're easily seen on the white model and they're pretty annoying. Oddly, when you're in an app that hasn't been optimised for the iPhone 5 and a notification arrives, the notification will still appear on top of the app rather than over the black bar. This issue will become less of a problem over time once apps are updated, but for now, it's not the most ideal use of that extra space.
An even better camera
The camera on the iPhone 5 remains at 8-megapixels, but it captures excellent photos with great detail. It's one of the best cameras we've ever used on a smartphone and many of the shots produced are comparable to some dedicated point-and-shoot digital cameras.
The iPhone 5 has one of the best cameras we've ever used on a smartphone.
During testing, we found that the iPhone 5's camera consistently produced more accurate colours than the iPhone 4S. Macro performance is excellent, and the lens is quick to focus on close range subjects — an issue we found on the 4S. The biggest improvement on the camera is the ability to take better quality photos in low light conditions, though these images are still noisier than most good point-and-shoot cameras. Video performance is impressive, particularly the stability of video during movement.
Perhaps the biggest improvement is the front facing camera. It now supports 1080p video and its performance in video calling apps like Facetime, Skype and Tango is significantly better than previous models. There's still a fair bit of noise in these apps, but there is much more detail on show and the overall image is clearer.
iOS 6 and using the iPhone 5
If you've used an iPhone before, you'll have no trouble using the iPhone 5. It's a very similar experience to previous iPhone's. Apple says its new iOS 6 software, which comes standard on the iPhone 5, has added over 200 new features to the platform. Most of these are minor, but there's are a few that particularly stand out.
The most significant change is the abolishment of Google's Maps application, which has been replaced with Apple's own Maps app. At this stage it's a change for the worse as the Maps app appears to be a half-baked, unfinished solution that lacks both the detail and the accuracy of the Google Maps app it replaced. Apple says it expects the Maps app to improve over time but since has gone to the extraordinary step of apologising for the app, even going as far as suggesting consumers use alternatives until it improves.
There are a few nice features in Maps, the highlight of which is an admittedly impressive Flyover mode that shows selected, major metropolitan areas from the air with 3D views. The issue here is that Apple appears to have settled for style over substance. While it's undoubtedly cool to flyover a 3D view of Sydney on the iPhone 5, wouldn't it be better if the Maps app knew where the Apple Store in Sydney was? If you could find Sydney University? If it knew where Sydney's M4 motorway is? If you could search for the SCG instead of the Sydney Cricket Ground. If you could distinguish between the Domestic and International terminals at Sydney Airport? You get the picture.
For the first time, Apple is playing catch up.
There are a few other improvements in iOS 6 that add to the overall user experience. Integrated Facebook information means you can now post status updates directly from the notifications screen, while contacts and calendar information from your Facebook account can be added to your phone (and easily turned off if you wish). A new share menu presents a list of options in a neater arrangement, while you can pull to refresh your email inbox in the Mail app.
We also liked the addition of a panorama camera mode (though panorama images can only be taken while holding the phone in portrait mode), the do not disturb mode that silences incoming calls in a selected time period and the ability to reject a call by SMS when you can't answer it. However, all of these features have been available in competing operating systems like Android for some time now, so Apple is merely playing catch up.
The iPhone 5 is a fast smartphone with next to no lag or slowdown. General performance is excellent, opening and closing apps is almost instant and switching between apps is slick and fast. If you're coming from an iPhone 4S you won't notice the increase in speed too much in day to day use. However, the faster speeds can be seen when you open the camera app from the lock screen, as one example.
If you're using the Telstra, Optus or Virgin Mobile networks in Australia, you'll be happy to know that the iPhone 5 is compatible with the 1800MHz LTE network band. That means you'll get 4G mobile coverage where it's available.
4G coverage is still fairly limited at the time of writing but when you are in a coverage area serviced by LTE with the iPhone 5, you're in for a treat. We managed to achieve download speeds of up 35 megabits per second (Mbps) on Telstra and up to 32Mbps on Optus when 4G was available, though the speeds you'll get will widely vary depending on location, time and network congestion. Unfortunately, Vodafone users are out of luck right now as the company isn't launching its 4G network until sometime in 2013.
Battery life on the iPhone 5 is certainly disappointing.
Apple says the iPhone 5's battery will last for up to eight hours of 3G and LTE Internet use and up to 10 hours of Wi-Fi, while talk time is listed at up to eight hours. However, during testing we experienced far less battery life than Apple's stated figures, regularly having to charge our review unit well before the end of the day.
LTE appears to be the biggest battery drainer but even when on 3G the iPhone 5 didn't achieve the best results. As an example of the poor battery life we experienced, on a regular Tuesday morning our review unit was down to 57 per cent after just one hour and 35 minutes of usage and three hours and 17 minutes of standby.
Obviously your battery life experience will vary depending on your usage patterns, your location and the signal strength of your carrier's mobile connection (especially when in a 4G area), but it was certainly disappointing for us.
Should you buy the iPhone 5?
If you're a current iPhone user, if you've invested heavily in the Apple iOS ecosystem and if you're happy with the way the iPhone works, you'll more than likely be very pleased with the iPhone 5. It's thinner, lighter and faster than previous models and has a large screen and an outstanding camera.
However, if you're not a current iPhone owner but are looking for a smartphone, the choice is more difficult. If you want a larger screened device and more flexibility than an Android phone might be a better choice for you. The iPhone 5 is without a doubt one of the best and most polished smartphones on the market, but whether Apple's rigid albeit slick user experience is beginning to tire will ultimately be a personal choice.
• Five things we love about the iPhone 5
• Five things we hate about the iPhone 5
• All the Australian iPhone 5 pricing: Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and Virgin Mobile
• Apple iPhone 5 vs. Apple iPhone 4S: What's the difference?
• Apple iPhone 5 Australian buying guide
Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!
Epson WorkForce ET-4550
Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop
Smart LED Bulb LB130
Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive
UE Boom 2 Bluetooth speaker
Everki ContemPRO Roll Top Laptop Backpack
Samsung portable 1TB T3 drive
Linksys AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit router
Huawei Mate 9
Lexar® Portable SSD
Epson WorkForce DS-360W
Google Daydream VR headset
Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive
Belkin MIXIT Metallic Lightning to USB Cable
Logitech G403 Prodigy mouse
Acer Swift 7
3SIXT Ultra HD Sports Action Camera
HP Pavilion x360 13”
Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards
Dell XPS 13 laptop
HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450
Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones
Blade 28 backpack by Arc’teryx
Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive
Garmin Fenix Chronos smartwatch
Dell Inspiron 5000 series 2-in-1
Surface Pro 4
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Gigabyte Aorus GA-AX370-Gaming 5 AMD Ryzen AM4 motherboard review
- 2 Kogan curved 4K UHD 55-inch LED LCD TV review
- 3 Panasonic Blu-ray recorder PVR set-top box review
- 4 Garmin Fenix Chronos fitness tracker smartwatch review
- 5 Star Wars Death Star Bluetooth levitating rotating speaker review
Latest News Articles
- Samsung unveils Bixby voice assistant for upcoming Galaxy S8
- BlackBerry readies a more secure version of the Samsung Galaxy S7
- Android device updates: Nougat rollout begins for the Moto Z Play
- Android device updates: Nougat is coming to the Moto G4, G4 Plus
- Beyond smartphones, Samsung wants its Exynos 9 chip in VR headsets
PCW Evaluation Team
A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.
I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.
As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.
I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.
Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!
For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.
- First look at the Formula 1 2017 pit lane in Melbourne, Australia
- LG 2017 OLED and Super LED UHD 4K TVs: Hands-on review
- Oppo R9s Plus phone: Full, in-depth review
- Which flagship TV is best? Sony 4K HDR Bravia 2016 versus LG 4K HDR OLED 2016
- 10 Blu-ray movies / Best looking Blu-ray movies
- FTSocial Media ExecutiveNSW
- TPSQL Server Developer | 3 month contract |NSW
- TPService Desk AnalystVIC
- TPFront End DeveloperNSW
- FTNetwork Security AnalystNSW
- CCOracle WebLogic AdministratorNSW
- FTPre-Sales Solution Architect - Global Cloud OrganisationVIC
- TPSoftware EngineerWA
- CCBusiness Analyst - ForecastingNSW
- TPBusiness AnalystQLD
- TPSenior Project CoordinatorVIC
- TPGIS Developer - 6 month ContractQLD
- CCSAP BPC SME/Consultant - BRISBANE BASEDQLD
- CCSenior Test Analyst-InfrastructureNSW
- CCICT ManagerNSW
- FTMicrosoft Designer / ArchitectVIC
- CCBusiness Analyst- Digital & agileNSW
- TP.NET DeveloperWA
- FTSenior Software Engineer x 2 - Adelaide Based (PV, NV2 or NV1 required)WA
- TPSAP Data Migration LeadQLD
- FTFinancials ConsultantQLD
- TPAutomation Test AnalystSA
- FTNetwork EngineerACT
- TPBusiness AnalystACT
- CCProcurement OfficerQLD