The iPhone 5 features a 4-inch display, compared to the iPhone 4/4S’s 3.5-inch display. Photo: John Bradley/Wired
Apple’s iPhone 5 is another iterative update to the iPhone line. It features a lengthier frame, a redesigned chassis, and heavily upgraded internals that combine to deliver a super-speedy and decidedly modern smartphone experience. It’s terrific, but nothing that will blow your mind-hole.
The most noticeable difference between the iPhone 5 and a 4S/4 is just how crazy light this new thing is. It’s actually lighter than plasticky Samsung phones like the Galaxy S III, yet it doesn’t feel cheap. The switch to a primarily aluminum back plate (and the slimming Apple did as far as the in-cell display and other internals go) make it 20 percent lighter weight than its glass-backed predecessor. After years using the 4/4S form factor, I found the weight loss completely surprising, especially given the increased size.
Another pleasant change is the iPhone 5′s brushed aluminum bezel and rear plate, rather than slick aluminum of its predecessor. One of the problems I find with some larger phones, like the Nokia Lumia 900, is that their size and smooth veneer make can make them tough to hold onto. Not so with the 5. Since it’s the same width as the current iPhone, you don’t need to awkwardly stretch your hand wider to grasp it, which is a definite plus — unless you find the iPhone too small for your palm. Besides being quite handsome to look at, the brushed aluminum texture adds a subtle and comforting level of friction between skin and metal.
The brushed aluminum rear plate of the iPhone 5. Photo: John Bradley/Wired
The 4-inch, 326 PPI display is just as dazzling as it was when it was first introduced on the iPhone 4′s two years ago, but the extra screen real estate gives you more room to appreciate it. Colors are bright and rich (it has 44 percent more color saturation than the 4S), text is expectedly crisp, and high-resolution images look stunning. The added fifth row of app icons on the homescreen feels completely natural.
The A6 processor makes onscreen interactions, app loading, and webpage opening practically instantaneous. Surfing through the new Maps app in iOS 6 is stutter-free, but the two finger gesture to adjust your view in Flyover mode, a whimsical but potentially useful feature of the OS, takes some getting used to.
Its 8-megapixel shooter, largely the same as that in the iPhone 4S but shrunk down 25 percent in size, seems to take quality photos (and 1080p video), but the lighting in the demo room isn’t optimal for really putting a camera through its paces. The new Panorama mode is easy to use and can be accessed by tapping the Option button at the top of the camera app interface.
A few features we have yet to test in our limited hands-on time: the iPhone 5′s speed bump to 4G LTE connectivity; the smaller, reversible “Lightning” dock connector; and battery life. We’ll get to those and more in our full review in a few weeks’ time.
Our overall impression of the iPhone 5: It’s another iPhone. Just longer. And better. Although there may not be one individual feature about it that makes you scream, “I’ve got to have it now!”, all the improvements together make it a gotta-have handset.