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.


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.