The Ultimate iPhone 5 Review by Our Guest Apple Super-Fan

Daniel Pando, from Poem Interactive, offered to do a thorough iPhone 5 review for us from the perspective of an iPhone user, and boy did he. Let us know what you think of it and his thoughts in the comments below.

Let me first start off by stating I’m a huge Apple-fanboy. Please read this with that in mind. I mean, I’m the kind of Apple-fanboy, that flew to NYC from my hometown in Miami with the sole intention to purchase the original iPhone at Apple’s iconic flagship store on 5th ave (see video here).  I did so for one very clear reason that many of us now know as fact: The iPhone was to change the way we interact with ourselves, each-other, and the world around us. As a technology pundit I, of course, needed to be at ground zero with fellow deep-pocketed geeks and scalpers. It was a monumental step forward in the mobile computing industry. I saw the iPhone’s full potential five-years ago as clear as I see myself now typing this review on my iPhone 5 using Pages. Now, on one hand, you might stop and think okay, great, this review will be biased. But, on the other hand, you might come to the conclusion it’ll be a well educated review that benefits from watching this franchise grow from the delicate infant it was in 2007 into the fast, tall, high-profile toddler we’ve all come to know today.  I can’t say for certain you won’t feel my love for Apple come through but I can guarantee you it’ll be a thorough, factual, real-world review.  If it’s not you can shoot me with a jellybean loaded paintball gun!  So lets dive-in head first, shall we?

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Hardware

LTE

It feels like yesterday that I was hogging up my parents home-line with an archaic alien language.  A language that allowed me to have multiple conversations through the AOL Instant Messenger and not much more.  Cut to today and we have broadband speeds in our pockets thanks to over-the-air television stations going digital, freeing up the large and powerful 800Mhz wireless spectrum and its supporting infrastructure. Now, yes, LTE (Long Term Evolution) has been a feature offered on most Android handsets for almost two years now but Apple has a long history of taking its time on technology that isn’t a standard or hasn’t been perfected.  One of the biggest problem with a full-fledged adoption of LTE for most smartphone manufacturers, including Apple, was the fact that earlier modem chipsets were battery hogs.  Qualcomm, the world leader in mobile modem chipsets, has finally put that energy-hungry LTE band on a diet allowing Apple to finally jump-on the highway of mobile broadband speeds.

So does it actually perform what it advertises out in the open world? Does it really conserve battery power versus its competitors? Does it fetch Facebook statuses and tweets at instantaneous speeds we’ve come to expect only from the comforts of our homes? I am more than happy to report, YES!  However, like all things, it comes down to how you use it and where you are.

I can’t speak for any other city other than the one with the most network congestion in America, New York City.  I can however give you a detailed rundown of the largest owner of all LTE infrastructure, Verizon.  The truth of the matter is I get one bar of service in my apartment located in Long Island City (a somewhat small area in Queens located on the cusp of Manhattan) compared to the full bars of service on my previous iPhone 4S.  This is a very silly problem considering what I just said about Verizon “owning” the airwaves, but as with any new technology we have to expect bugs and glitches.  That said, one morning I reached over to grab my iPhone 5 (as I do ritually within moments of coming out of my deep sleep) and visited my favorite channels of social media.  What I didn’t notice till there was a hiccup in data retrieval, almost twenty minutes into my waking up ritual, was that I wasn’t connected to my Wi-Fi.  On one bar of service my LTE speeds felt like my FiOS broadband speeds.  This to me says it all.  My reception when out and about becomes that much more unbelievable.  Roaming the streets of Manhattan with LTE in my pocket is a treasure.  Sharing pictures with friends via iMessages is near instantaneous.  Loading Facebook is a snap (this says a lot if we take a moment to remember how slow Facebook was a mere month ago).  LTE takes a nose dive however depending what borough you’re in and how deep into a building you go.  Sadly, the iPhone 5 doesn’t fair as well indoors as the iPhone 4S did. This is probably due to the new network not being completely finished.  You can always count on the phone to switch back to the more robust 3G network when those moments do occur, however more often than not my phone skipped the 3G network altogether and fell all the way down to 2G.

So enough fluff, what are the real-world speeds of Verizon’s LTE on this shinny new phone? I’ve seen an average of 10-15Mbps Down and 10Mbps Up around the metro NYC area.  Not quite what is advertise by Apple and their corresponding carriers but we all know those numbers are always of a best-case-scenario type.  For a full speed-test rundown of all the carriers hop on over to our 4G carrier comparison.

A6

So what’s pushing all these ones and zeros around on this supermodel-thin phone?  Before we get into that let’s briefly talk about the history of the “A” processor.  Apple initially wanted to have Intel power their iPhone line using a simpler architecture but Intel wasn’t interested so instead Apple looked at ARM.  The first iPhone debuted with an off the shelf ARM processor chip that was clocking in 412Mhz. This served Apple well as it was enough to dip their toes in the water for the next three iPhone generations while gaining experience for engineering phones.  With the introduction of the iPhone 4 in 2010, Apple made an even deeper investment in the heart of its super successful mobile phone, the A4 microprocessor.  Apple acquired a few semiconductor companies a couple of months after the launch of the original iPhone and began designing their own custom ARM chipsets. Apple designing their own processors to work in unison with iOS gave Apple the upper hand in many ways over its competitors.  Things like extended battery life, better memory management, and overall speed within apps.  The A4 & A5/5X however, were really only a beta of what Apple had in store for its semiconductor acquisitions

Meet the A6, a 32-nanometer thin microprocessor.  A processor built from the ground up to work hand-in-hand with iOS 6. A processor that has been revealed to be designed by hand, taking almost no spare parts from its predecessors.  I’m sure you, like myself, are wondering what on earth that means, “designed by hand”.  The quickest way I can explain such a mind-blowing task is, “It’s the worlds most complex electronic quilt”.  Most processors are laid out by sophisticated computer algorithms, the A6 however was designed top to bottom by its engineers. All that extra love and care translates to a mobile processor with better efficiency so it can stay small, powerful, and still utilize a smaller energy requirement. In part, this processor is why the iPhone 5 has been dubbed “The Fastest Smartphone in All The Land,” by PC Mag.

While the exact specs of the processor remain a mystery, iFixit has clocked the Dual-core CPU speed at 1Ghz, this coupled with its 1GB of Ram (up from the 512MB found on the iPhone 4S) and a triple-core GPU brings the iPhone in line with its Android counterparts which have been operating at these specs for a few months now.  Don’t let that fool you though, Android uses a large portion of its horsepower to run all the background tasks associated with the OS (skins, widgets, services, etc.). The Android platform has always had a history of memory and CPU cycle management issues due to having multiple manufacturers.  (This is, in part, why Google developed the Jelly Bean update to address most of these problems.)

The iPhone on the other hand, with it’s much more strict OS, has always needed less power to run compared to Android devices that are running a lot more tasks in the background. This boost in speed, up a complete double from the iPhone 4S (a phone that was already pretty darn snappy), means the iPhone 5 has more than enough power to do some pretty demanding tasks.  Everything is speedier and richer compared to the last iPhone, from increased frame rates in high-demanding games to recording and uploading 1080p to social networks.  If this chip could talk I’m sure it would say, “what else you got?” For a complete benchmark comparison between iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, and the Galaxy S III run over to Redmond Pie for a complete head to head show down.

4-inch Retina Screen

Finally, the iPhone gets a bigger screen! Personally, this is the one thing to come out of the mobile platform war that I’m grateful for.  iPhone gaining a bigger screen is a direct and obvious result of the Android platform and their respected manufacturers making large displays the norm.  As an iPhone owner since day one, I want to personally thank Android OEMs for this.  Back when the original iPhone was released, Apple conducted a huge ergonomic study on what the correct size and aspect ratio a pocket sized super phone should be.  They ultimately went with a 3.5 inches ultra low-resolution HVGA screen.  For the time they nailed the size but with the explosion of mobile apps and services that emerged over the years the 3.5” screen was getting pretty cramped, while in contrast, its competition was becoming way larger.  Steve Jobs was completely against increasing the size of the phone.  His argument was that one should be able to hold and operate the phone with one hand.  This is an general rule I agree with wholeheartedly.

So what did Apple do to adapt and evolve while maintaining Steve’s golden rule?  They kept the aspect ratio (the width of the phone) and added another half inch bringing the new iPhone’s screen to a comfortable yet now, much more competitive, four inches. This doesn’t seem like it would have too much of a difference, but if you’re currently or have been an iPhone user, once you hold it, it makes all the difference.  An extra row of icons, an extended view of a text message conversations, Instagram filters no longer obstructing the the view from your working image, etc. It all adds up to creating a more refined and enhanced iOS experience.  All while keeping the iPhone virtually the same height.  Apple even moved the screen closer to the home button to make sure your thumb can reach the upper corners of the screen.

Apart from the newly sized retina screen Apple made another improvement to the screen, one that isn’t so easily noticed – its internal thickness.  The new iPhone 5 screen ships with the first massed produced in-cell touch sensor display.  Meaning the sensors used to capture your input and translate them into gestures are now baked into the display rather than being a separate layer. This unlocks three key benefits. The first one being there is one less layer to obstruct the actual display which translates to better color saturation, up 40% from the iPhone 4/4S.  The closer the screen is to the actual front panel glass, the less light reflection you receive making the phone easier to operate outdoors.  The new display brings down the reflectance from the previous model down a whopping 52%. The final obvious benefit is an even thinner smartphone. Displaymate has labeled the iPhone 5’s display as, “Best Smartphone Display They’ve Seen”.  They rated the display a solid A, up from an A- on the iPhone 4S display.  This score was comprised by testing calibration, viewing angles, and overall contrast and color. If you place an iPhone 4S next to the new iPhone 5 take a look at both display’s Phone App icon, the iPhone 5 clearly shows a dramatically more vibrant green icon.  This was achieved by a 57% increase in contrast ratio.  The flagship announcement of this new display to me is the fact its the first true sRGB display.  This means colors are not distorted from the original image.  The iPhone 5‘s display showcases the full standard color gamut.

Battery Life

So how about that battery life?  No better way to tell you about battery life than a breakdown of a real days worth of use.

12:42pm – I unplugged my phone from the charger and began my morning ritual connected to my home Wi-Fi. (Yes, I stayed up really late the night before.)

2:15pm – Finished my daily round of playing catch up with the world and my friends on the device.

5:50pm – Left the house to go visit a friend.  Occasional exchange of texts and various usage in-between.

7:00pm – Coordinated a huge mix up of people to meet for dinner taking into account all their current locations. (Maps [we’ll get into this debacle later], Find my Friends, iMessages, etc.)

9:00pm – Pictures, Foursquare Check-in’s, with a hint of ignoring people at the dinner table to see what everyone else is doing in my social-sphere.

10:30pm – The ride home intoxicated (don’t worry I was in the backseat, and of course I was on my phone the entire way home).

11:30pm – Passed out after letting everyone know I was home, safe and sound.

11:30am – Wake up wondering how on earth I slept so much only to realize I never plugged in my iPhone to charge over-night

12:30pm – Realize I was an hour deep into my morning ritual again, with one bar of service NOT connected to my home Wi-Fi and still having 25% battery left from the previous day!

So there you go. iPhone’s battery proved itself to me to be vastly better than the iPhone 4S.  iLounge has reported that the battery life of the phone is greatly impacted by the signal strength of the device when it’s on the LTE bands, the lower the bar, the more battery drain and vice-a-versa (this is true of any smartphone, by the way). So keeping that in mind, paired with the fact I get one bar at home, in which the phone spent most of the 24 hour period in means this iteration of the iPhone family gets an official seal of improvement over its predecessors.  Your results will vary, of course, so I will say if you’re a heavy user, you might still need to carry a wall charger around, but for the vast majority of us that don’t live in our phones this phone can handle a day’s use with ease.

Earpods

It’s hard to believe it took 11 years for Apple to update any one of its products, especially one that played a huge role in their rise to mainstream success, the iconic Apple white earbuds.  Yet generation-after-generation of iTunes packing mobile devices were updated and released while the true stars of the acid-inspired iPod commercials were left ignored.  This, in itself, is a mystery. Apple being known as a company that refreshes its products at least every three years.  How could they possibly allow mediocre earphones to ship year after year as countless competitors launched far superior replacements at equal price points?  I’m afraid, just like ABC’s show LOST, it’ll remain a mystery…  One thing is for certain though, the new Ear-pods that began their journey to our ears three-years ago were worth the wait.

First, it’s design is very unique.  It is one of those rare products where the name truly fits as these headphones really are “pod” shaped.  It looks and feels very futuristic.  Apple did indeed spend a great amount of research and development on these bad boys.  The way air flows in and out of the Earpods gives it a very clear sound.  Now, no good review is without a comparison so I’ve compared them with today’s most popular in-ear headset, The Bose MEI2.  These are premium headsets with the price tag of $129.99 retail.  Now before you go on and say, that’s not a fair comparison. Trust me, it is.

Comfort: I’ve always been told I have oddly shaped ears so I was hoping the new Earpods would be kinder to me.  They, unfortunately, were not.  If I were to actively use them, i.e. sports, running, working out, etc, they’d fall right out. Hopefully, though you’re among the normal human being collective with normal ears and not the exception like myself.  The Bose headsets, in my opinion, still rule in this department.  They come bundled with size attachments to give you that exact perfect snuggly fit.  In this regard, the Bose wins the comfort test.

Sound: This is where the comparison between the two headsets become much less clear.   In order to better describe to you the improvements with the new EarPods I need to first address the original Apple earbuds, which by today’s standards are a joke.  This now extinct headset were most often left in its packaging never to be used (can’t tell you how many iPhones I’ve owned to which I left the bundled headsets in the box).  For all intents and purposes, let’s label these the “disposable headsets”.  Sound from them was always horrible producing really bad bass and weak treble.  For this I’m going to rate them a 3 out of 10.  The new Earpods have come a long way from being “disposable”, however.These new earbuds have an entirely new air-flow design.  Air is what allows sound to travel, so any innovation in this area means way better sound replication.  Apple has placed vents that flow in and out of the Pods “organically” producing a much richer bass and crisper mids with little distortion.  The Earpods even manage to block out a lot of the ambient noise much like the Bose headset does.  This brings the Pods to a solid 7 out of 10.  Holding the top rating though, in my opinion, are the Bose MEI2 earphones.

 There is no competing with Bose in the sound replication or noise cancelation categories.  This is what Bose does for a living after all.  The only issue is the huge price difference.  It’s hard to justify the price of the Bose, a cool Benjamin Franklin more than the EarPods, which are either bundled with your new Apple device purchase or its retail price of $29.99 to the $129.99 Bose price-tag.  Those last remaining 3 points in my opinion aren’t worth $100, unless you want the absolute best quality and don’t mind shelling out the an extra Franklin.  With the new EarPods I believe most of us will think twice about upgrading once they’re taken for a spin.  This, in itself, is a huge milestone for Apple and their previously “disposable” earbuds.

Lightning Connector

It all started with the introduction of the Intel-Apple designed Thunderbolt connector.  A cable that moves data as fast as light itself.  While Apple’s new mobile Lightning I/O port isn’t as fast as its similar bigger brother, it has its own innovations to tout.  The now old, yet ambiguously well-known, Apple 30-pin connector has lived a long life.  As long of a life as the Apple Earbuds.  The 30pin connector debuted with the 2nd-generation iPod and became a standard in tons of households by the time the iPhone 4 hit the streets.  Like the earbuds themselves, Apple’s mobile port was due for a much needed update if Apple was to continue slimming down their devices. The 30pin port will live on for years to come however as there are hundreds, if not thousands, of 30pin connector accessories out in the world and Apple still sells the iPhone 4 & 4S, there is still a healthy market for 3rd party manufactures to continue making 30pin-compatible accessories and cables.

So what features does this new connector get to brag about? Well, let’s begin with the bad news. Firstly, this is still a USB 2.0 cable on the other end. This is perplexing as all of Apple’s new (mid-2012 and on) laptops ship with USB 3.0 enabled ports (a feature that took them quite a while to catch up on). The good news is that, like its Thunderbolt older brother, its speed can increase when Apple deems it worthy; meaning the technology in this cable is “future proof”. Apple can use the same design while bumping up the speed as they see fit. So don’t be surprised if iPhone 5S touts a Lightning cable pumping out USB 3.0 speeds (if not better). The second, more awesome feature is that this cable is dummy-proof. There is no wrong or right way to plug the cable into your Apple device. It’s a tight snap that’s very secure while still being easy to pull out with just the right amount of pull. The main reason for designing this cable was to allow Apple to continue flattening it’s mobile products to near impossible millimeters. The only down side to this new connector is that it’s so revolutionary and so complex that other 3rd-party cable manufactures will find it very hard to duplicate for sale for some time to come. Apple has made strong rigorous and stringent changes to its Made for iPod program with the release of this new port. My guess is it’ll be months before you see someone other than Apple manufacturing and selling this fancy new cable in different colors. Luckily, Apple has kept the price of the Lightning cable reasonable at a $19.99 price point. Currently, the cable is under tight supply and if you search for it on Apple’s Online Store you’ll get 2-3 week delays. Brick-and-mortar stores, however, seem to have healthy supplies of them right now. So what to do about the plethora of pre-existing 30pin connector accessories you own? Don’t worry, a $29.99 Lightning to 30pin adaptor should be hitting store shelves soon.

 

Cameras

Sadly, the iPhone 5 rear camera doesn’t take the 4S camera to any new heights. It’s still an 8 megapixel camera with the same amount of lens layers in-between the light-sensor and the subject. Before we judge them for not making a more drastic jump in mobile photography, let’s look at what they did manage to accomplish. Firstly, let’s be reminded that the iPhone 5 is a really thin phone. The fact they were able to compress the 4S’s camera down to fit within the new phone’s dimensions is pretty incredible. One change Apple did, however, upgrade, is the outer layer of glass to a Sapphire Crystal to have better light performance (while also boosting the life of the lens). They also improved the color and sharpness of the picture while giving the camera an extra 2 f/stops of dynamic range in low light conditions. Meaning what may have once been a unusable picture due to little ambient light, may end up now being sharable. From my own personal tests, there is indeed an obvious increase of light in dark conditions while decreasing visible image grain. Also, video stabilization has also been vastly improved (for a real world example video click here).

The biggest improvement though came to the front facing FaceTime camera. It went from being a SD camera to a more modern HD camera. FaceTime calls are vastly more realistic in their representation of color and image clarity. Another added feature to the camera app on the iPhone is the new Panorama. Granted, this is a feature also provided to 4S users but it really shines on the iPhone 5 due to the A6. The photo-stitching happens in real-time. There is zero processing time so you get to see your finished Panorama the moment you press “Done”. The only fault in the new camera comes in the form of overly purple lens flare from bright sources of light. This is becoming a know issue over at Apple and some reports have come in stating not all iPhone 5’s are experiencing the issue.

For a complete detailed review of the camera hop on over to Digital Photography Review.

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Design

Thinner & Lighter

Apple’s latest design focus in it’s product lineup is putting everything they make on a cheese-cube only diet. Thin is in. It is the ultimate showcase of engineering marvel know-how. Motorola set the benchmark in 2004 with the Motorola Razr, a phone that went on to become a world-wide phenomena with it’s unbelievable slim body. So how thin is thin this time around? A mere 7.6mm which is 18% thinner than it’s predecessor. Numbers don’t say much though, it’s kind of one of those things you need to see to truly appreciate. From my observations, Apple has a track record of selecting a design detail from the previous generation to slice off. For example, Apple selected the Chrome border found on the 3GS as the starting point, everything above the the reflective border had to go. For the 4S to 5 Apple chose to remove everything above the metal band. It’ll be interesting to see which design detail of the iPhone 5 Apple chooses next to start slicing off.

Ever heard the phrase, “Love at first sight”? This phone causes a change to that age-old sentiment as it’s now, “Love at first hold”. Not only is the phone super thing, but it’s super light as well. The iPhone 5 weighs in at a very feathery 112 grams. This is a whole 20% lighter than the iPhone 4S that came before it. Now, again, numbers don’t translate well, especially when we’re speaking of a few coins worth of weight. So I will say once you pick up one of these is really when you’ll notice the difference. The thin body is a constant reminder we’re in the 21st century. Whether you’re a fan of Apple or not, you can’t pick up this phone and not be impressed as they really did a great job with it’s design.

Durability

iPhone 5’s new design is an oxymoron. Let me explain. Apple has increased the overall strength of the phone while simultaneously making it much more sensitive to the world around it. The most gentle tap on its hard surface will place a visible nick or scratch on its body. This phone can take a beating but it will certainly show, thanks to the new diamond-cut finish on the lip of the metal band surrounding the phone. Normal day use over time will result is obvious micro-nicks all throughout. Apple has replaced most of the glass found on the backside of the iPhone 4/4S with a metal back which removes the chances of an unsightly fractal pattern most have come to notice when those devices were accidentally dropped (a design fault Apple never considered AppleCare-worthy until the introduction of AppleCare+). Also, the 4 and 4S had a plastic outer border protecting the metal band, while the new 5 removes this plastic outer border and so the exposed metal band takes the the full-punch. A single drop could prove very nasty as the Slate paint job will be scraped off revealing it’s shinny, natural silver body.

Early durability tests have been conducted comparing the iPhone 5 to the Galaxy S III. You can find these videos embedded below for your viewing pleasure. I have to warn you though, the results aren’t pretty. All in all, the new iPhone 5’s lighter body, it’s enhanced Gorilla Glass 2 face, and it’s unibody design makes it the one of the most durable phone out there. In the event your phone ever does decide to take a nose dive, the chances of you picking it up and it no longer functioning or having a shattered display are slim, but having nicks and scratches on it’s surfaces, far more likely.


If you’ve been cursed with butterfingers and plan on purchasing an iPhone 5 you might want to consider getting a case. If you’re in the market for what has recently been labeled “life cases”, may I recommend you the soon-to-be released TakTick case as, in my opinion, it is one of the best ones for the iPhone 5.

Antennas

Apple is truly leading on antenna design and that’s thanks in-part to us early iPhone 4 owners. We complained when holding our phones caused a dramatic loss in signal strength. This caused Apple to retool their antenna design for the CDMA version of the iPhone that was released in February of 2011. The 4S debuted a technology Apple dubbed, “Intelligent Antenna Switching” which basically means the phone features two antennas that constantly search for the next strongest tower and switches between them on the fly. All this has been developed to help reduce the chances of a dropped call. This feature continues to be exclusive to the iPhone 4S and now the iPhone 5.

Details

As the saying goes, “It’s all in the details”. The iPhone 4 was beautiful with it’s steel metal band border coupled with the double sided glass facade. The design was so successful that Apple has kept it for the iPhone 5 while, of course, refining it a bit.

  • The metal band on the black model features a darker paint job Apple has dubbed “Slate”. The band’s edges have been polished by a process referred to as “diamond-cut,” at first glance it appears like tinted chrome. It’s subtle sheen gives it a unique look. By the end of it, the black model is left looking like the stealth fighter of phones.

  • Moving the headphone jack to the bottom of the phone, a design trait first found on the iPod Touch is an added welcome. No one wants a cord to get in the way of operating their device. Most of us pocket our phones top side first, so this helps immensely in terms of comfort and ease.
  • The symmetry of the phone is off the charts for those of us that are OCD in nature. The slits of the metal bands align and correspond with the rear glass, Bluetooth, and WiFi panels. The FaceTime camera being placed in the direct center of the phone is a welcome move as it makes the phone feel more organic overall in it’s design.
  • The oleo-phobic coating, which first debuted on the iPhone 3GS to help reduce fingerprint smudging has been improved on the iPhone 5. Unfortunately, on the iPhone 3GS, by the second week, it has complete worn off. If I had to give a percentage, my coating on the iPhone 5 has only reduced in strength by a factor of 7% in my two weeks of ownership. This is a very welcome improvement, especially on fingerprint-prone black iPhone’s.
  • Apple was the first on the scene with the now legendary Gorilla glass. Apple comes back sporting Corning’s sequel to it’s runway hit with Gorilla Glass 2, a thinner, stronger glass. This should help with the now ambiguous screen shatter issue.
  • Holding the phone feels silky to the touch thanks to the new metal back. It’s only down side is that all that progress found in the phones oleo-phobic coated front is lost here. The metal back (on both the white and black models) is a finger-grease magnet.

  • Apple’s latest handset continues to cater to the greater good of the environment with a rating of 2.75 out of 5 from iFixit for toxic non-recyclable materials. For comparison the iPhone 4S came in at 2.69. The lower the number, the more earth-friendly. Nice to know with all these design improvements, earth didn’t take too much of an increase in harmful substances.
  • iPhone 5 now features three microphones placed below, above, and on the back side of the phone. This is an aggressive move on Apple’s part to dramatically increase the clarity of sound not only for the party you’re calling but for yourself. The noise-cancelation feature, started on the iPhone 4, had two integrated microphones. The 5 takes it to a new level with the addition of the third. To test this feature, I conducted a call in a relatively loud bar and the results were excellent. I could hear the other caller vividly as if the music was several feet away (instead of right next to me like it was). Likewise, on his end he could hear my voice as if I was “in the room with him”. He also mentioned that he didn’t have to raise his voice to communicate with me.
  • The home, lock, and mute switch buttons have always been my benchmark for build quality. Apple for the first time has knocked this out of the ballpark. The Home button feels firm and sturdy, you can tell it’s going to last the test of time in comparison to older models that have wide spread issues and complaints from users. The button’s spring is entirely made of metal this time around, no plastic to be found here folks. The same can be said for the lock button. Switching from silent to sound and back again is a delight, it almost feels mechanical. Gone are the days of wiggling buttons and overly “clicky” noises. This is an admirable accomplishment considering how many of these bad boys they pump out a day.

All these amazing details come at a cost at the end of the day. Employees at Foxconn (where most Apple devices are assembled) have protested and rioted against the near-impossible stringent build quality standards set for the iPhone 5, resulting in both injuries and production line damage. Let’s hope Apple and Foxconn, sooner rather than later, figure out a way to leverage building quality products while providing a dignified work environment.

Apple has always been a stickler for quality in my opinion, and the iPhone 5 not only continues that level of quality, but surpasses it. All these unspoken improvements to the phone really do help validate it’s retail price of $700.

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iOS 6 on iPhone 5

Maps

Ah, Maps. Every major iPhone generation has failed to live up to the high standards Apple has set for “perfection”. The iPhone 2G had the early adopter price drop. iPhone 4 had it’s “Antenna-gate” issue. iPhone 5, or more specifically, iOS 6 has it’s Maps issues. This is however a “bigger” problem than previous ones. People these days rely on their phones to get to places more than ever. I won’t go into the issues found with Maps in depth, as David has already covered this issue in depth with his “iOS 6 Map Debacle”. Head over there for a little insight and perspective on the situation.

Speed

Instantaneous is all there is to say when it comes to iOS 6 on the iPhone 5. Every section of the operating system was optimized and developed to work harmoniously with the new A6 chip. Let’s step back for a moment and talk about the iPhone 4S. That phone marked a shift in demand when it came to performance. It used to be that hardware was behind the demand of the software. The 4S flipped that on it’s head. The A5 chip was the first processor on an iPhone to push through tasks with absolutely ease. The hardware was meeting the expectations of the software. That said, you can imagine how fast the new OS is on the A6. Loading apps, multi-tasking, downloading a PDF, and editing and compressing an HD video for YouTube feels absolutely effortless on the iPhone 5. This changes the game entirely, in my opinion, as I unconsciously think to grab my phone for common day tasks more often than I do my MacBook Pro. There is a paradigm shift happening with the accomplishments being made by iOS 6 and the A processor line and, in my opinion, it will be something to keep an eye on over the coming years. So if the iPhone 4S was like taking the highway to work, the iPhone 5 loaded with iOS 6 is like being on the smartphone express lane.

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Marketing

Secrecy

One of the key signatures of Apple over it’s history is been their C.I.A. level classified protection over product announcements. No one other than those who need to know are aware of what Apple is really cooking in their underground bunkers. That seems to be near impossible now that Apple has become a media magnet, specifically their iPhone product line which accounts for 70% of Apple’s total revenue. They‘re now a full-fledged international company which makes keeping things a secret, well, near impossible. Tim Cook isn’t one for theatrics either, his strengths lie within being a chess-master of controlling the supply chain, landing deals with component manufactures that grant the iPhone exclusivity over everyone else for certain components year after year. Granted, secrecy was one of Jobs greatest tricks as a salesman. Secrecy creates mystery which leads to an intrigue and a heighten-level of engagement from customers. Anyone who would dare take away Jobs’ thunder would never be able to work another day in their life. With his passing however, this all changes.

You might be wondering, why on earth are you talking about this in the iPhone 5 review? Well it’s a two-part answer. First, this iPhone release marks the first time where virtually every aspect of the device was known before the keynote started. As an Apple enthusiast vividly remembers watching these keynotes, not knowing was the reason we tuned in every quarter. So being aware of the new features ahead of time almost makes the keynotes moot. Granted we still didn’t know the finer details, but a simple visit to the Apple website now is all that is needed. The second part is we can now take the more solid Apple leaks and reputable rumors more seriously, meaning we no longer have to hypothesize what Apple is cooking in their bunkers. This allows us to make better decisions about whether or not we’ll want their newest offerings without having to wait till the day of. This kind of forecast window has never existed and it’s definitely worth noting going forward now. For the complete breakdown of the rumors turned fact check out MacRumors Rumor Roundup Article.

Promo Video

Another year, another product walk-through video from the proud Father’s of the iPhone. The iPhone 4’s walk-through video was surprisingly one of the top watched Youtube videos in 2010. Let’s see if the iPhone 5 walk-through will demand the same kind of bandwidth from Google’s servers this time around.

Commercials

Apple’s ads have always been on point (somewhat). These new TV spots showcase the iPhone 5’s new features one by one. This is in contrast with other smartphone manufactures, which won’t be named (cough, Samsung, cough), which waste precious ad money and airtime trying to recruit iPhone faithful customers by insulting them (counter-productive if you ask me). Something to note now though is that each ad now flashes one of the three American carrier’s logo for a split second before the iconic Apple logo shown at the end. This is a new move on Apple’s part, one that I’m sure carriers played a role in. I’ve embedded below the commercial that Apple uses to show why the iPhone’s screen size is a perfect display of “common sense”.

Sales

It’s hard to ignore the fact that iPhone pre-order sales hit 2 million within 2 hours of being live at 3am with a total of 5 million units being delivered and sold by the end of the launch weekend. Many people were left without a new phone on launch day because of supply constraints. Sharp, up until this past week, was playing catch up with producing the iPhone 5’s shiny new display in bulk. This was the only component that wasn’t reaching it’s promised target-yields so it should be smooth sailing from here on out. Apple has brought back it’s overnight ordering system which first debut for the iPhone 4 launch. This makes it very easy to find an iPhone 5. Simply visit Apple.com/retail at 10pm every evening to pre-order your iPhone for next day pick up at your favorite Apple retail location.

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Carrier Notes

AT&T comes very close to competing with Verizon in LTE speed-tests, but technically speaking, they’re still a few Mbps short of Verizon’s over all average. As always, no matter their biggest letdown though is their stance on FaceTime calls. You MUST be on a shared data plan in order to utilize the now standard feature. This means if you’re in a grandfathered unlimited data plan from way back when and want to make a FaceTime call you better find a WiFi Hotspot. This isn’t exactly a customer friendly move in my opinion and others agree as AT&T is facing Net Neutrality allegations. On the bright side though, unlike Verizon, you can talk and surf at the same time. Also, when you’re getting poor LTE coverage you can expect to fall back on the speedier 4G (3.5G for those of us that have been paying attention to the marketing tactic sparked by T-Mobile) versus Verizon’s standard 3G.

Sprint to me is the Canada of carriers. They are neutral on everything and try to bridge all the features of their competitors. Does it translate to actual sales? I don’t believe so. I don’t know many people on Sprint. In fact I only know of one, and it’s not by his choice either, it just so happens to be the carrier of choice for his family. That said, Sprint does a clear and decent job of giving moderate LTE coverage at competitive price points with little to no call drops (maybe because there’s little traffic on Sprint?). So let’s think of them as T-Mobile, the budget option, they just happen to carry the iPhone. Also to note, they’re fully pro-FaceTime, so have your child blow out their birthday candles with Grandma to your hearts content!

In my opinion, Verizon is the premium carrier provider for your iPhone. Call quality is extremely reliable and their LTE coverage is by far the most extensive in the US. Their prices are just as competitive as AT&T’s and also support FaceTime out of the box, without any restrictions (unlike AT&T). Two cons to Verizon continue to be no talk & surf simultaneously and if you’re on an unlimited plan, upgrading to the iPhone 5 at contract prices will knock you off and onto a tiered pricing data package. Same thing happens if you want to add tethering to your account. Despite those, I still find Verizon to be my carrier of choice for the iPhone 5. Also, fun fact, the CDMA version of the iPhone comes unlocked. Meaning if you ever needed to venture over seas or even switch over to AT&T you can do so without any effort on your part. However LTE won’t be available to you on AT&T as the bands are incompatible.

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Conclusion

The iPhone ignited a revolution in the mobile phone industry in 2007. No one can deny that. However, tech-pundits now have the opinion that the iPhone 5 doesn’t continue that revolution and that it isn’t a giant leap forward as Apple claims with its slogan, “The biggest thing to happen to iPhone, since iPhone”. This may be true as there is little innovation to be found here when you compare it to its ever-increasing competitors. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t something else to be found here that is still missing from the competition. Things like the rock-solid unified experience only iOS can deliver with its hardware and software optimization that is still to this day unrivaled. Let’s not forget the A6 itself, this processor isn’t something to snuff at. Yeah, the camera didn’t get vastly improved and heck it’s not even number one in the mobile-phone world but it comes in second on one of the world’s thinnest smartphones. Being an iPhone user since day one, I can confidently say this is the best iPhone Apple has ever shipped. I haven’t had a single problem. This fact leads me to believe Apple didn’t set out to revolutionize the phone industry again. They instead opted to shift focus towards building a phone that feels as exclusive and refined as when we all first saw the original Razr. They set out to once again set a standard of quality. Holding the iPhone 5 over an extended period of time feels amazing. It feels and behaves like it’s price tag (if not more), something that can not be said about any other phone on sale today in my opinion. Now I’m not saying the iPhone is the all powerful, must-have phone of all time either. Instead I’m merely saying that other smartphone manufacturers now have their benchmark and if anyone wants to dispute this I ask you this… How did Apple receive the title of the most valuable brand in the world as of this past week? The answer isn’t a mystery, they owe that title entirely to the iPhone.

After using the iPhone 5 for two weeks, I can confidently say that the iPhone 5 shifts the paradigm once again in a whole-new way. It leverages the power of a full-fledged desktop computer while harnessing the speed of a home broadband internet connection to deliver something unheard of before. A “Phone” that is radically and noticeably not only double the speed of the iPhone that came before it but a mobile device that is even faster than a MacBook Pro Retina at everyday tasks. I believe, the line between computer and phone have officially become blurred. iPhone 5 can truly be summoned up in a single word, instantaneous. Instantaneous now starts at $199.99, this is where Apple has delivered innovation, again.”

Agree with our guest poster Daniel? Have some arguments? Let us (and him) know in the comments below. And, as always, keep it relatively clean, shall we?

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