The iPhone 5 was finally announced today after months of hype and speculation. Leading up to the event, countless examples of “leaked” images and hardware cropped up with regards to the new iPhone 5. After a lot of talk and rumour it turns out that a lot of them were true.
The new iPhone 5 features an aluminium case, longer screen, 4G LTE and new dock connector. The changes seem good, if not revolutionary. This newest iPhone from Apple should certainly be enough to keep customers happy, as there are upgrades across the board. But so far we haven’t seen anything particularly new; just things that are now better.
So what’s new about Apple’s iPhone 5? We take a detailed look at what is sure to be the world’s next most popular smartphone.
The New iPhone 5 Aluminium Case Design
The new case design of the iPhone 5 is very reminiscent of that employed on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, except made from aluminium instead of Gorilla Glass. We applaud ditching the old, shatter-prone case, even if it was beautiful, in favour of a more durable material, but aesthetically it really just looks like an elongated iPhone 4S. The straight edges and rounded corners seem exactly the same, the same old buttons have made a show and even the camera is in the same place.
Don’t get us wrong; we love the new look. But after the infamous let-down that was the iPhone 4S with its identical look to the iPhone 4 we expected Apple to go a little more all-out in terms of artistic aspiration.
That being said the new dimensions are certainly impressive. Despite the multitude of new hardware, the iPhone 5 is 18% thinner and 20% lighter than the 4S. Coming in with an insane profile of just 7.6mm and a weight of 112g it’s definitely the thinnest, lightest iPhone ever. It’s also one of the more compact high-end smartphones in the entire global mobile market. Despite its increased size, the iPhone 5 should be almost unnoticeable in the pocket.
Final verdict: We like the new look, but would have liked Apple to shake things up a bit more.
The New iPhone 5’s 4-inch Display
Fans have been asking for it, we’ve been hoping for it and Apple has finally delivered. For the first time since the iPhone debuted back in 2007 the screen size has been increased. Now measuring at 4 inches diagonally, the iPhone 5 hasn’t morphed in to one of the giant heavy-hitters we’re seeing from Android and Windows Phone, but has expanded just enough to acknowledge the needs of today’s users.
As more people turn to screen-intensive uses such as browsing and video consumption, a larger screen real-estate means a more easy-going experience for many people. However, many folk don’t like the idea of a larger screen taking up room in their pocket or stretching out their hands, so Apple has taken its own approach in regards to the solution.
Instead of increasing the overall dimensions of the display in every direction, Apple has simply made the screen taller. This allows for the iPhone 5 to still be comfortably held in one hand, but also offers users a full-HD movie viewing experience with its 16:9 aspect ratio all while making web-page viewing and general reading activities much easier. There’s also room for an entire extra row of icons at the bottom of the display.
Fans need not worry; the increase in size doesn’t mean a decrease in quality. The iPhone 5 still sports a retina display with 630×1136 resolution. Same old quality and feel, but with more on-screen content than ever before.
iPhone 5 Hardware
Processor and Graphics
The processor has obviously seen a jump. The new Apple A6 CPU chipset is apparently 2x more powerful than that found on the iPhone 4S. The A6 is not only capable of handling both computer and graphics processing and much higher levels of intensity, but uses up less battery while doing so.
Apple didn’t specifically mention if this new A6 chip was quad-core. We assume that if it was they would have said something about it, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. As always, Apple’s vertically-integrated system of design and production allows it to maximise the efficiency of parts that are specifically designed to work together. What that means is that their hardware can do more bang for its buck, because it’s only designed to work with the other parts of the phone.
Where specs like GHz rating and core-count may matter on an open-source OS like Android, with Apple it’s an entirely different game. The only real way to test out how smoothly it runs is to get your hands on one and see for yourself.
The old, variably popular, Apple Earbuds have been ditched in favour of Apple’s new, redesigned EarPods. The idea behind the new shape is to provide comfort to as wide a range of ear shapes as possible without the annoyance of the earphones constantly falling out.
The result is a rather unique-looking design. We can’t speak for comfort or sound quality just yet, but we’re interested to try them out for ourselves.
Storage-wise the iPhone 5 will come in the 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions that we’ve all come to know and love. Still no options for expansion via MicroSD, but that was to be expected.
The New Lightning Adapter
The old 30 pin dock connector has been thrown out in favour of the new 8-channel Lightning Adapter. This new adapter is more compact, more durable and, most interestingly, is reversible. That means that it will work whichever way up you plug it in to your iPhone 5. It’s a good idea and a smart step up from the old standard. We’d still like to see something simple like a micro-USB port, but we know we never will.
4G LTE for iPhone 5
Unlike what we saw with the New iPad, or iPad 3, the iPhone 5 should offer truly global 4G LTE connectivity, rather than only within the US. On Apple’s website there are three different versions of the iPhone 5, two GSM models and one CDMA model. Each model is completely identical in appearance and only differs when it comes to network connectivity.
The greater majority of buyers won’t need to worry about this, as only the appropriate model will be available in your region or from your carrier.
- The first GSM model is for the US and Canada, designed to work on the AT&T, Bell, Togers and Telus networks. Its model number is A1428 (GSM Model).
- The CDMA model is for the US, but aimed at the Verizon Wireles and Sprint networks. This Model will also hit Japan on the KDDI network. Its model number is A1429 (CDMA Model).
- The last model is the global GSM version. On Apple’s site it is headed for Germany, the UK, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore. This model number is A1429 (GSM Model).
It’s truly exciting that a smartphone as popular and prolific as the iPhone will finally be delivering 4G LTE.
One small concern is that the US GSM model (GSM being the closest thing to a world-standard) will not function as a 4G LTE device in the global arena, meaning that overseas users can’t purchase their iPhone 5 from the US and have it shipped to their location if they want 4G connectivity. This is currently unconfirmed but it’s worth keeping an eye out for if you’re planning on taking this route.
4G LTE is a fantastic form of wireless broadband. It offers ultra-fast speeds that can sometimes even outstrip landline connections such as ADSL2+. Not everywhere has 4G connectivity yet and the countries that do often have it only over a limited area. But networks are sure to grow with the kind of demand that a new iPhone can generate, so we’ll hopefully be seeing a global 4G LTE boom over the next couple of years.
iPhone 5 Camera and Photos
Standard Image Capture Improvements
The iPhone 5’s camera is still an 8MP affair, but with some intriguing upgrades to both the lens and the camera app software. The official name of the new iPhone’s shooter is the “iSight” camera.
The already impressive shutter speed of the iPhone4S has been improved by 40%. There is also now reportedly better low-light performance and improved noise reduction. Low-light photos have plagued smartphone cameras since their inception, so we’re keen to see how affective Apple has been in addressing this issue.
The iSight camera is capable of taking panoramic shots of up to 28MP and 240 degrees. Preliminary looks are fairly impressive, but a more accurate test will be to wait and see what happens once it’s in the hands of the average snap-happy amateur.
The new lens is what Apple is calling a Sapphire Lens, that is thinner and more scratch resistant.
Video recording has seen improved shake-reduction and now can detect up to 10 faces simultaneously for improved focus.
Another fun addition is the ability to take photos while capturing 1080p HD video. This is not the first time we’ve seen this on a smartphone, but it’s still a great addition that you don’t see very often.
Last but not least the new iOS6 Facebook integration allows for FaceTime video calls over wireless broadband networks, just in case a WiFi connection can’t be located. We’re not yet sure if this requires the full power of a 4G LTE network, or a traditional 3G connection.
Siri Upgrades and New Maps
Siri on the iPhone 5
Siri has seen a few tweaks and upgrades to make things even easier. Once again no word on global availability of these new functions, as Siri saw more limited use outside the US than within, but hopefully Apple has improved on that as well.
Here are some new features and examples of Siri’s new range as offered by Apple.
Just ask Siri.
Siri is the intelligent assistant that helps you get things done, just by asking. Talk to Siri as you would to a person: “Do I need an umbrella?” or “Any modern art museums around here?” or “Where’s the closest ATM?” Siri not only understands what you say, it knows what you mean. It figures out the right apps to use to find the right answer. Then, just like a personal assistant, Siri provides you with the information you need.
New Siri features.
With iOS 6, Siri understands more questions, knows more answers, and gives you a lot more to talk about. Ask Siri about sports scores and stats, where to eat, what movies to see — even ask Siri to make Facebook posts or tweet for you. And Siri is fluent in more languages, so it does more things in more countries.
In iOS6 Apple has ditched its dependency on Google Maps and built its very own native Maps app from the ground up. We’ve already detailed the new Apple Maps app back in June when Apple first announced it, but we’ll cover it again briefly.
On paper, Apple seems to have made a globally comprehensive piece of maps software with a few twists.
- Twist 1: Siri integration. The new maps service will tie in with Siri, meaning that requests requiring location-specific information, such as a restaurant location, should be faster and more accurate. One can also more easily ask Siri how to get from one place to another, prompting directions to pop up on your screen.
- Twist 2: 3D view. We’ve seen 3D view from Nokia and an impressive demonstration by Google. What’s surprising is that Apple, with its totally new service, has already managed to provide a 3D experience as well. Using either turn-by-turn or the normal maps view users can view a very simply-skinned 3D representation of an area.
- Twist 3: Fly Over. Fly Over is more comparable to Nokia and Google’s 3D maps offerings. It’s a much more detailed 3D view of an area complete with photo-accurate images of buildings and landmarks. Obviously not everywhere will have this service available, as it takes time and resources to record and compile this kind of data, but many major cities should be able to enjoy this function.
iPhone 5 Availability and Pricing
Availability is very soon. Preorders begin on Friday the 14th, with shipping starting on September 21st in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, Germany, France, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Pricing in the US on a 2 year contract is the same as the iPhone 4S was:
- iPhone 5 16GB: $199
- iPhone 5 32GB: $299
- iPhone 5 64GB: $399
As such we’re expecting global prices to mirror what we saw with the iPhone 4S.
Based on this lead from the US, we’d be expecting the plan prices to be similar to the launch prices last year where we could see an iPhone 5 for $0 on a $59 Plan. However, much has changed since last year and carriers have been less willing to subsidise their phones at the 2011 level. We saw the Galaxy S3 launch at $5 on a $59 Plan at the end of May and the iPhone is a more expensive so perhaps iPhone buyers may need to pay more this time around. We’ll see. Be sure to keep track of all the iPhone 5 plans as we get them.
Overall we like the changes introduced in the iPhone 5. The larger screen sounds fantastic and the new Lightning Adapter looks both sleeker and easier to use.
The aluminium case design is something we’re torn on. On one hand we like that Apple has ditched the infamously crackable all-glass design in favour of aluminium. We also loved the old look, so keeping with something similar at least means that the iPhone 5 passes muster as a stylish phone without risking looking silly.
However, we really feel like the new case mirrors that of the iPhone 4 and 4S in appearance far too closely. We would have definitely preferred something a bit more distinctive from a company like Apple that is heralded for its innovative ideas and modern aesthetics.
The other changes to the iPhone 5 all seem like fairly standard upgrades. Improved battery efficiency, thinner profile, better camera software with new camera functionality, deeper Facebook integration and general updates to Siri all seem like an example of evolution; not revolution. It’s understandable that Apple isn’t going to turn around and change the game every 12 months, but wasn’t that what we said when the iPhone 4S failed to wow many a fan?
We are definitely very keen to try out Apple’s new Maps app, but we won’t need the iPhone 5 for that. Come September 19th iOS6 should start rolling out to to iOS5 devices around the world, complete with the new Maps service.
Ultimately this will prove a win for Apple. Come release-day countless users around the world will be calmly waiting in line for hours on end to receive their shiny new gadget, no matter now ground-breaking it either is or isn’t. They won’t be too disappointed, as the iPhone 5 still looks like a truly solid top-end smartphone; it just doesn’t feel like anything we weren’t already expecting.