Review: iPhone 5

When Apple concluded its iPhone 5 event in San Francisco last week, I walked past the hands on area where Apple had devices for press to use, and went to meet with Apple executives to get an iPhone 5 of my own.

I’ve been using the iPhone 5 as my main device for almost a week now and it has been a treat. As I do with all of my reviews, I want to give you an idea of how I use it in my life and how it performs in my daily tasks. To me, that is what makes a device like the iPhone 5 important, not the specs.

At first glance you may think the iPhone 5 looks exactly the same as the iPhone 4S, but that can be a little deceiving. There is no doubt the new iPhone is very similar to its predecessor, but there are many small changes.

For instance, the silver band around the iPhone 5 has the slightest bezel that gives the iPhone a slightly more rounded feel in your hand. You may be wondering how much difference that little change could make, but if you hold your iPhone all day, even the smallest change makes a big difference.

That has been my takeaway from the design of the iPhone 5 — small design changes that make for big user experience improvements. It’s important to remember that while the changes on the outside may be small to the naked eye, the changes on the inside are huge. Every major component of the iPhone has been changed in one way or another.

Of course, the thing that everyone is talking about with the iPhone 5 is the 4-inch screen. I can tell you that it’s gorgeous.

The thing with the larger screen is that you get this feeling of having space on the display that you didn’t have before. Clearly, that’s true because the screen is larger, but I mean even more space than the screen allows. Perhaps it’s a perceptual thing. If you told me that I would be able to see another few rows of emails or more of a Web page, I don’t know that I would see the importance, but when you look at the iPhone 5, it’s more than that. You have to see it to get an idea of what can be done.

Apps are not just going to be stretched to fit the screen. Developers have already shown at Apple’s event that with more space comes new and innovative design ideas. That’s the future of iPhone apps.

iOS developers are some of the most innovative people I’ve ever met. They are continually pushing the envelope of what can be done on a mobile operating system and mobile hardware. I expect, from the conversations I’ve had, that trend will continue with the iPhone 5.

The most important point of Apple’s larger iPhone screen is that it’s not too large. I know that sounds strange, but bigger is not always better. If the screen is so big that you can’t comfortably operate the iPhone 5 with one hand, then Apple would have failed.

But they didn’t. I am able to easily navigate through the iPhone 5 menus and options using one hand. My thumb reaches the top of the screen to tap on options and hit the back button without shuffling the phone in my hand.

This is a mobile device, not a desktop computer. We want to operate an iPhone with one hand. This is a device that we use on the go, with a coffee in one hand and an iPhone in the other. We can send an email, visit a Web page or make a phone call.

We can also use the multitude of apps available, but the second you require two-hands, you take away functionality and convenience from the user. That is a design failure.

Another factor that comes into play with size is the ability to put the iPhone 5 in your pocket. Again, it’s a mobile device — we need to be able to take it out, use it and put it back in our pocket without really thinking about it. If we have to find a new place to put the iPhone, it’s no longer convenient. When that happens, we stop using it.

If there is one problem I had with the iPhone, it would be with the apps that weren’t designed for the larger screen. We’re used to going to the bottom of the screen for the menu, but because the older apps are centered on the screen, the menus aren’t there. I tap a few times before I realize I have to move my thumb up a little bit.

It’s a minor quirk that will go away as soon as the developers update their apps.

I use my iPhone 5 to make phone calls, iMessage, text, Web browsing, email, Twitter and generally keep up-to-date with what’s going on around the world. I unplugged my phone from the charger at 10:00 am, used it all day doing the things described above and then waited for it to run out of battery.

It wasn’t until about 7:00 am the next morning that it finally died. I didn’t watch any movies or intensive things like that, but I had Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on. Basically this was real-world usage testing for me. It was a normal day.

Many of us have experience with LTE from using the iPad. I’ll tell you it’s great to see it on the iPhone. I actually use LTE more on the iPhone than I do on the iPad, simply because I use the phone a lot more. The speed is incredibly fast, especially when compared to what the iPhone 4S could do.

Like the faster processor and graphics, LTE gives you the feeling of never waiting for anything. Apps open fast and you are ready to work or browse the Web right away.

I know we hear about Apple’s products being thinner quite a bit, but the iPhone 5 is noticeably thinner than the 4S. I was actually surprised at how much thinner the new iPhone was when I held it next to the 4S. Of course with thinner comes lighter, and the iPhone 5 is that too. I guarantee you’ll be surprised the first time you pick it up. Because it’s larger, you naturally assume it will be heavier, but it’s not.

iOS 6

I’ve been enjoying iOS 6 and all of the features it brings to the iPhone, but most of all I like iCloud integration.

I have taken advantage of everything iCloud has to offer. I sync my contacts, calendars, bookmarks, I use Documents in Cloud with iWork and most of all, I use iTunes Match. Everything I have is in iCloud and I couldn’t be happier.

iOS 6 and Mountain Lion makes this even better. With Notes and Reminders, everything I need to schedule, listen to, make an appointment with, contact or work on is on every device I own. From my iPad, to my iPhone and Macs, all of my information is there.

For me, the operating system isn’t just about what’s on my device, but also how that OS lets me access and interact with my information and content when I’m not on my iPhone. That is where iOS excels.

I really should mention Maps, Apple’s new turn-by-turn direction app on the iPhone. I love it. I used in Cupertino and I used it at home — it worked equally well in both places. Using Siri and Maps together, I can get information and directions to pretty much anywhere I want to go. The street labels in Maps are easy to read while driving, which is great at a quick glance and the spoken directions were great for me.

EarPods

One of the things I was excited about was Apple’s new headphones that they call EarPods. I listen to music on my iPod or iPhone quite a bit when I travel, so having good headphones is important.

Personally, I never had a problem with Apple’s old headphones, but a lot of people complained they fell out of their ears. My wife and son both have this problem. For me, the EarPods fit even better than the previous model.

You know when headphones start to push out of your ears and the music seems like it’s getting farther away? That didn’t happen. I pushed on these a number of times and they didn’t go into my ears any more than they did when I first put them there.

I wore them on my flight from California after the event for five hours and they were quite comfortable.

What I really liked was the bass response. I tried a number of EQs and different types of music and the headphones sounded great.

Bottom Line

My experience with the iPhone 5, iOS and the EarPods has been great. The iPhone is everything Apple said it would be and with iOS 6 built-in, it’s clear to me that Apple has another winner on its hands.

I can’t think of any good reason why anyone wouldn’t upgrade or purchase the iPhone 5.



  • http://www.iphoneincanada.ca Gary

    Nice review, Jim. Can’t wait to get hands on this Friday.

  • Santi Hervella

    Fantastic as always Jim, thank you.

  • http://fcoramirez.betaid.org/ Francisco

    I can’t wait for it to be released in Chile (hoping for an October release). I’ll be buying it the first day.

  • Endlesskoke133

    “I can’t think of any good reason why anyone wouldn’t upgrade or purchase the iPhone 5.”

    I can think of one: Android.

    • Bratty

      He specifically mentioned any “good” reason….capice?

    • http://twitter.com/Moeskido Moeskido

      Until they realize it’s almost as much work as Windows was.

    • adrianoconnor

      I can think of another: It’s £599 for a 32GB iPhone 5, and that is the exact same price as a brand new Les Paul Gibson Studio guitar. If I had that money going spare right now, I’d almost certainly get the guitar :)

    • http://twitter.com/andremaha Andrey Esaulov

      Oh yeah, cheap plastic. You really have to be a genius to state THAT as the reason =)

  • Endlesskoke133

    “I can’t think of any good reason why anyone wouldn’t upgrade or purchase the iPhone 5.”

    I can think of one: Android

    • Canucker

      iOS doesn’t have that ability to double post like Android. Must be inferior….

    • http://totalipad.com/ Christopher

      Like he said, he can’t think of 1.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=567543450 Billy Liar

      Ha ha, Android – worlds favourite laggy mobile OS for dialing a telephone number and playing Talking Tom Cat.

    • http://twitter.com/forty2j Jim McPherson

      Without trying to be a “fanboi”, for the most part a single person shouldn’t be seriously considering both Android and iOS.

      Android is the Windows of smartphones. It will do exactly what you tell it to, and you can get it to work exactly the way you want providing you’re willing to put the time and effort into both the initial setup and the ongoing maintenance. As one example, having an SD slot means keeping track of which files are on the SD vs. on the system memory, and which files are on which SD, and reorganizing everything when you want it to be different. Some people want the benefit of external storage and will pay the time in maintenance. Some don’t and won’t.

      iOS is the Mac of smartphones. It will do what Apple lets you do and nothing else, but Apple has thought carefully about what the vast majority of users are going to need to do and made those features not only available, but intrinsically simple to use. For people that just want to pick up a portable computing device and use it without fussing around with it, and don’t miss what they’re not getting, it’s a wonderful system. For people who want to tinker and are hyperobsessive about how everything is handled, it’s not as wonderful.

      Ironically.. or, perhaps, tellingly.. Windows Mobile is following the iOS approach.

  • http://twitter.com/shycophante Shyco Phante

    “I can’t think of any good reason why anyone wouldn’t upgrade or purchase the iPhone 5.”

    How about being tied into a minimum term contract with a mobile service provider?

    • VGISoftware

      What’s with you people? How clueless can you be? It’s not a matter of being “tied into” a contract. It’s a matter of exchange. The phone costs MORE than $200. The provider foots the rest of the cost of the phone in exchange for your service charges for your cellular service for two years. Just because you can’t SEE the service doesn’t mean it doesn’t cost a lot of money to provide. It isn’t free.

      • michaelant

        That’s very true, VGI. Though if you rarely use any voice minutes, like me and an increasing number of people, you’re forced to pay quite a lot for nothing.

        The iPhone costs $650, right? The minimum voice plan you can get is $40/month, for 24 months. If I only use a few minutes of voice each month, then for the “privilege” of owning a pocketable, always-online computer, I’m forced to pay 40×24=960 – (650-200=450) = around $500 for services I don’t need. It’s an unfair penalty, but one I pay because I love my iPhone, for everything it does, even though I rarely ever make calls. (instead, texts arrange face to face meetups, and if I actually have conversations of any length, they’re video chats, which are infinitely better than voice calls on a cell)

        The new iPod Touch is killer, very nearly an iPhone without the phone (though no GPS). HOW I WISH Apple would offer data for the Touch, like they do for the iPad. Until then, I’ll get extorted $500 every two years by AT&T.

        • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.kalchev Daniel Kalchev

          This is an US-mostly thing. To buy all smartphones subsidised and pay huge monthly fees for connectivity.

          Here in Europe, we usually buy the iPhone for say 600 EUR and pay monthly fees for capped data in the range of $10-30 (1-5GB usually). Subsidised phones aren’t much cheaper and together with an one or two year contract the price is about the same as the unsubsidised iPhone. You get the multi-year service essentially for free…

          The same applies to any other smartphones. Unsubsidised Android phones comparable with the iPhone aren’t any cheaper.

          • michaelant

            Are you able to get cheaper rates for voice minutes, as in not having to sign up for plans for $40/month — since you buy your phone full price up front? I’d assume and hope so. I wonder if in Europe if people who rarely use voice minutes are also forced to pay this “smartphone surcharge” in the form of unneeded and unused voice minutes… ?

          • SM

            The difference is that you get to pay a lower initial price for the phone if its subsidized so that the customer can have an easier time getting the phone if they wanted it. Paying 650+ activation fees looks less attractive than paying the initial 200 and then paying for monthly service as time progresses. It helps keep the cash flow of customers smooth. I have been an iPhone customer for years and I haven’t felt the pinch of paying for the service because it was paid for in time and not all at once.

  • http://twitter.com/donsmustache Don’s Mustache

    when the beard speaks, the mustache listens… counting the hours till Friday

  • TheRealAppleFanboy

    Solid review.

  • Ben Randolph

    Upgrade fees are keeping me from upgrading on AT&T.

    • Sasparilla2

      The 6 will be even better next year when mine will be up…..but the 5 sounds great.

      • http://mikemanzano.com Mike Manzano

        It will be the 5S.

        • shankness

          Exactly. its easier to guess the pattern. The follow every X model with a XS model.

    • eastpointvet

      add a line for 10 bucks a month which is cheaper than u will pay for the upgrade fees even if you had the money

  • Paulkesselman
    I can’t think of any good reason why anyone wouldn’t upgrade or purchase the iPhone 5.

    I can, my contract has yet another year before I am eligible for a reduced upgrade.

    • eastpointvet

      add a line and you can pocket the money from selling your 4s

      • Paulkesselman

        adding yet another line (i already have 3) will not save me any $ in the long run

  • maineguy

    Well done… I’ll be taking my daughter Friday am to brave the crowd.

  • http://twitter.com/cosmozac Zac Hall

    You just brought back the excitement felt during the event. Can’t wait for Friday!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=68102762 Phil Pakula

    wow how short is the usb cbale now

  • Jason4427

    Wondering about the battery. Were you using AT&T or Verizon?

  • http://twitter.com/BongBong BongBong

    Although I’ve been a long time fan and user of Apple products, this one just might push me to finally become an iPhone user.

  • Simon Abrams
    I sync my contacts, calendars, bookmarks, I use Documents in Cloud with iWork and most of all, I use iTunes Match.

    iTunes Match is great on my desktop computers, but has been virtually unusable for me on my iPhone 4 and iPad 2. With about 20k songs up there, the Music apps on both iOS devices constantly crash, stall, and generally perform abysmally. Hoping this is better in iOS 6 and on iPhone 5.

    • http://mikemanzano.com Mike Manzano

      Just pay for a spotify account. I did and recently noticed I hardly use iTunes anymore.

  • Mny

    Jim,

    Overall very good review but it appears you may have drank a little too much “cool aid”.

    It may have gotten you a few more points with your pals at Apple but I think you really let your readers down with that last line… In fact, there are many very good reasons why people wouldn’t want to, or shouldn’t upgrade.

  • Eduardo Ghedini

    Great review. So sorry in Brazil the mobile carriers locked (intentionally crippled) the cellular Internet speeds in 1 Mbps since EVDO and nothing seems to change when they roll out 4G here.

  • Sasparilla2

    Jim, nice review and you’re right, anyone with an iPhone (and likes it) would definitely want a 5.

  • TFausett

    Awesome review Jim

  • Tellus

    How much did apple pay you for this promotional piece? Swiped input on my galaxy s3.

  • Sam

    “I can’t think of any good reason why anyone wouldn’t upgrade or purchase the iPhone 5.” Het Jim, not everyone has money to trow around. Please send me about €700, which will be about the price of the iPhone 5 here. No subsidized iPhones here.

  • satcomer

    Jim what is your impression of the headphone jack be moved to the bottom? What about using something like Square and keeping the lighting cable plugged in?

  • http://twitter.com/mindexit SquiDinK

    “The thing with the larger screen is that you get this feeling of having space on the display that you didn’t have before.”

    and people get paid for writing this. i must be in the wrong career.

  • Zeatrix

    “I can’t think of any good reason why anyone wouldn’t upgrade or purchase the iPhone 5.” – That sounds like something Mitt Romney would say :)

  • Asad Quraishi

    Thanks for the review Jim! The Geekbench and SunSpider benchmarks being reported, the significantly better screen, the lighter and thinner phone, LTE, a 2X faster processor have got to, together, result in an overall much better ‘feel’ than the 4S. This iPhone seems to be the most compelling upgrade from the just-previous generation iPhone.

    Can’t wait to try it!

  • Don Moeller

    Jim,

    I’m just curious is there anything that could use improvement or something that you didn’t like other than the centering of the old styled apps? What are your thoughts on the new lightning connector? I think the positives outweigh the negatives on the cable connection being smaller and the benefit of being able to plug it in in either direction.

  • http://twitter.com/andremaha Andrey Esaulov

    Very nice review – just like it should be: from the perspective of the day to day use of the phone. Glad I found it.

  • http://twitter.com/shiningneptune Shiningneptune

    Waiting patiently for this phone. Will buy the day it rolls out in India.

  • Jimmy Mackey

    Okay, you mentioned maps. I have an iPhone currently, but my wife had an Android phone for many years, and the Google Maps is amazing when it comes to Navigation. I’m a little skeptical, but if I’m going to have an iPhone, having navigation is better than none at all. (I don’t consider the current app worthwhile at all). I’m also looking forward to a bigger screen for watching my shows and movies with the DISH Remote Access app. I like watching on the go better because I get more TV watching done in my day, and all I need is internet and my Sling Adapter at home.

  • http://twitter.com/unknwntrr Wenzel Massag

    I totally agree on how great the iPhone 5 is and I really look foreward to finally holding one in my hand. But I can think of a reason why I won’t buy it right away: I neet 32GB if not 64GB and here in germany it’s 899,- € (~1174,- US $) without a contract and even more over the two years a normal contract runs when you add all the incremental payments together. Just remember: that’s a MacBook Air!

    I’ll stick to my iPhone 4s for some time, although I’d like the 5 and enjoy what iOS 6 has to offer for me.

  • Anonymous

    To the author: your lead makes you come off EXTREMELY douche-y and self-important. “I walked past the hands on area where Apple had devices for FILTHY MOUTH-BREATHING press to use, and went to meet with Apple executives to get an iPhone 5 of my own BECAUSE I’M SO MUCH COOLER THAN ALL OF YOU.” I immediately stopped reading. You lost all credibility with that intro, IMO. Not sure if you were intending to come off this way, but you did. Maybe something to think about for next time if you want to be taken a bit more seriously and less of an entitled fanboy.

    • dvdphn

      Those are your words, not his. I read the intro as Jim Dalrymple pointing out the fact that instead of writing a review from using the phone for 30 minutes at a display table, he got to take the device home and use it for a week, and actually provide real-world experience in his review.

      Perception is very subjective, and sure, there probably was a safer way of saying, “Got to use the iPhone 5 as my main phone for the past week”, and imply, “This ain’t no few moments with it at a hands-on table, but actual integration into my daily life”.

  • http://darcyfitzpatrick.tumblr.com/ Darcy Fitzpatrick

    This review feels really empty to me. It’s a lot of stating the obvious mixed with surface-level observations, most of which is repeating what has already been described in greater detail in other reviews, while still other important details have been left out completely. And I find it interesting that you think the screen size is still perfect for one-hand use while Gruber’s review at DF states that he has to reposition the phone in his hand to reach certain areas now with his thumb.

    And what’s up with that intro and outro? Neither added anything of value. If anything, they serve to discredit you as an unbiased observer. So you got to skip the line and get an iPhone 5 in advance and you can’t think of a single reason why anyone – anyone – wouldn’t want to upgrade to or purchase this phone. Good to know.

    • dvdphn

      Guess Jim Dalrymple has bigger hands than John Gruber, (Dalrymple does play the guitar after all, and usually guitar players have a large hand span; not saying that John Gruber has small hands).

      And from his past iPhone reviews, the message is still the same, “Best iPhone yet.”.

      • http://darcyfitzpatrick.tumblr.com/ Darcy Fitzpatrick

        If that were the case, then he should have made that a caveat – my thumb reaches around the phone just fine, but I have larger than average thumbs so your mileage may vary – that sort of thing. This review is devoid of any such considerations for his audience.

        I’m a happy iPhone customer in many regards, but that doesn’t mean I want to be spoon fed niceties about the latest iteration. But judging from the majority of the comments here, a lot of people here do. So maybe Jim had his audience in mind all along.

        This isn’t a review. It’s pandering. Pandering to the people who keep his advertisers happy, and to the company that puts review units in his hand prior to the release date. And Jim has the gall to call others out on their bullshit? Hypocrisy.

  • Johan

    Bullshit come on man the iphone 5 is way too big doesnt feel comfy in the hand i like the 4 s way better