Emerging Technology

GADGET WATCH: iPhone 5

Patrick Stafford /

Apple unveiled the iPhone 5 last week at one of its iconic events in San Francisco. The anticipation has been huge – the device has already sold two million pre-order units in just 24 hours, with more likely to come after its release tomorrow.

But of course, there has been some discussion about whether the device is as revolutionary as some had hoped. So although Apple may be proud of its new device, does the iPhone 5 really stand up to the rest of the market?

Hardware and features

The new iPhone 5 features some cosmetic changes. Firstly, the casing is now made entirely of glass and aluminium, switching the back glass panel for an aluminium one.

The device itself is only 7.2mm thick and weighs only 120 grams. The screen size has been boosted to four inches, although this is lower than the screens on rival devices Galaxy SIII, the Lumia 920 or the Galaxy Nexus.

The gadget is powered by the A6 chip, with 16GB, 32GB of 64GB of internal storage. It features 1GB of RAM, an eight megapixel camera with LED flash, a 720p front-facing camera, and 4G connectivity.

There are a few changes from previous models – the headphone jack has now been placed at the bottom of the device, and microphones have been added in the back and front of the device to help with noise cancellation.

There also some smaller changes including a thinner connector port, requiring a new “Lightning” connector, and a newly designed pair of earbuds.

What’s the consensus?

One of the first things reviewers have noticed about the new iPhone is its weight – or rather, lack of weight.

John Gruber writes the device feels good in the hand, particularly with its light touch. And over at CNET, the publication wrote that “you’re going to be shocked at how light this phone is”.

The next biggest point of praise is the larger screen, which CNET says is subtle, but “adds a lot to document viewing areas above the keyboard”.

“Who knows what game developers will dream up, but odds are that extra space on the sides in landscape mode will be handily used by virtual buttons and controls.”

Engadget praised the aluminium backing, although noted the two glass windows on either side break the uniformity of the design. They have an engineering purpose, though – to boost the antenna.

And while many users are frustrated by the Lightning connector, Engadget says the connector is easier and faster.

“To test this we lined up an iPhone 4S next to an iPhone 5 and ran both through a number of syncs with large files. Pulling 5.5GB of data from iTunes to the iPhone 4S took five minutes and six seconds on average. Syncing those same files to the iPhone 5 took three minutes and 57 seconds on average.”

“So, nearly 20% faster, but we’re not sure how much of this is due to the new connector and how much can be attributed to faster internals in the phone itself.”

Jim Dalrymple wrote over on The Loop that the battery life showed an improvement, even with the faster processor and graphics. He also praised the LTE connectivity: “LTE gives you the feeling of never waiting for anything”.

And finally, Walt Mossberg over at All Things Digital praised the camera, saying the panorama feature was a nice addition and that “photos and videos I took looked great and were improved when in low light”.

All these reviewers praised the new additions of iOS 6, including more support for Siri and the ability to share with Facebook, along with 200 other features.

However, there is a significant drawback – maps. Apple has gotten rid of Google Maps for its own feature in iOS 6, which is by all accounts nowhere near as good. While users will be able to get by, these reviewers say you’ll be better off waiting for Google to come out with their own app, just as they did with YouTube.

Who’s it for?

The iPhone 5 is the best version of the iPhone Apple has made, and may be the best smartphone on the market. Of course, Android devotees won’t be convinced to switch over, but for the majority of smartphone users, the iPhone 5 is a clear bet as the best mainstream consumer device.

But that doesn’t mean everyone needs to upgrade. Users on the iPhone 4S will get most of their benefits through iOS 6 updates, and so a hardware upgrade isn’t essential. For everyone who owns an iPhone 4 and previous versions, however, the iPhone 5 is worth an upgrade.

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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