iPhone 5 review
- Bigger screen
- 4G capability
- Better front-facing camera
- No iP5-specific iOS 6 features
- Battery life still not great
- Prefer the old Maps design
iPhone 5: Maps
Apple Maps will divide opinion. Even with some nice features the search functionality seems hit and miss in terms of finding London locations. It displays more road names than place names and colour-coded roads have gone, so navigating to a specific point via pinch and zoom is trickier.
Then again, the 3D mapping, map rotation and Flyover features are all great. Maybe we’ll get used to it but, as it stands, we prefer the old Google Maps.
The extra screen length does give turn-by-turn Maps navigation – in portrait only – an advantage over the iPhone 4S. Obviously, you can fit more map on screen, with the direction tab sitting at the top, leaving a decent amount of space for the road you’re on and your surroundings.
Watch: Maps on iOS 6 demo
Walking and bicycle routes can also be plotted. Voice directions are basic but clear, though it doesn’t seem to utilise its traffic feature to route you around black spots to your destination. It’s not bad for a free service.
iPhone 5: Passbook
Passbook is interesting. Retailers and businesses will need to sign up – for free, apparently – but once on board, you’ll be able to download flights, tickets, vouchers etc from them and store them in a digital wallet. It’s a neat idea, and could mean users don’t miss NFC, but as no UK outlets have signed up yet, we couldn’t test it, though we did enjoy the slick email-to-Passbook path.
iPhone 5: Connectivity
Wireless spec improvements for iPhone 5 include HSPA+, DC-HSDPA and, finally, dual-band N Wi-Fi. When using our 5GHz home router, we experienced a better, more consistent signal. A standard 3G signal also seemed to react quicker with our tests putting an average of 2Mbps on download speeds. A case of the new DC-HSDPA kicking in
iPhone 5: 4G
The iPhone is one of several top-tier devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S3, that's available on EE's 4G data plan. According to EE, its 4G LTE network offers speeds that are five times faster than those on 3G.
Using the Speed Test iOS app, we found that the iPhone averaged an impressive download speed of 19Mbps on 4G (compared to just 3.5Mbps on 3G), while average upload speed was clocked at 22Mbps (with 3G at a lowly 1.3Mbps).
iPhone 5: EE
The EE 4G network currently covers 11 UK cities - with the total set to grow to 16 by the end of the year. Prices start at £36 per month (with 500MB of data), with the highest tariff being a whopping £56 for 8GB of data. But is it worth it?
We tested out the phone's 4G capabilities around London Town, with the majority of our time spent in Central London including time clocked up in the East End and south of the river.
We found the signal to be strong for the majority of the time, but it did have the tendencey to drop out, far more than 3G ever does in the city. We were slightly concerned by the considerable amount of data usage that we clocked up during the time that we had the phone (albeit with frequent, review-related testing), the amount of which would have gone over the limit on the most affordable data packages.
As we expected, when the 4G is working, it's superb. Combined with the speed of the iPhone's new processor, downloads are practically instant, and streamed video is smooth and clear. However, it's a different story if the signal drops out and you're relegated to 3G.
For everyone except super-early adoptors, the high tariffs simply won't be worth the jump quite yet. However, as prices come down and coverage improves, 4G will begin making its way towards becoming the standard.
iPhone 5: Battery
In our testing, real-world battery life doesn’t seem to have changed much since the iPhone 4S, which could be seen as a good thing considering the iPhone 5 is a more advanced product, but you’ll still need to charge it every night to give you enough juice for the next day.
You can watch a couple of films on a flight or listen to hours and hours of music on one charge, but talking and 3G surfing take a heavier toll, and 4G connectivity could be even more of a drain.
One very welcome improvement are the new EarPods, which come as standard. While we think you can get better cans for the £25 they cost as a separate purchase – check out our Apple EarPods review – it’s great to have a better audio experience straight out of the box.
Prices for the 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models are what we’ve come to expect from new smartphones; expensive. The iPhone remains pricier than its competitors, both as a standalone handset – you can get a 16GB Samsung Galaxy S3 for around £100 less than the equivalent iPhone on Amazon – and on contract.
iPhone 5: Verdict
So, what to make of this latest upgrade. There’s no denying that the iPhone 5 is a lovely thing, and the best iPhone to date. It could well be Apple’s best-selling unit ever.
But a lot has changed in a year, and the current crop of Android superphones – and the incoming Windows Phone 8 handsets – have closed the gap. For nearly every “new” feature announced at the Keynote, there was a Samsung, Android, Windows, Nokia, Sony or HTC fan saying “my phone already does that.”
Apple’s competitors never been closer in terms of quality, function and aesthetics and from your feedback on our social networks we know how many of you are jumping ship to phones with a bigger screen and more features.
Given that iPhone 4S users can upgrade to iOS 6 and do just about everything the iPhone 5 can do, and that Android users can get similarly impressive handsets for less dosh, we reckon the smart money won’t all be going on a new iPhone this year, even if the mass market can’t get enough of it. It’s good, very good. But it’s no longer the best around.
iPhone 5 release date: 21 September 2012
iPhone 5 price: From £529
Additional reporting on 4G/EE by Libby Plummer