While the iPhone 5 is more of a reboot than a total redesign, according to reviewers, its 4G LTE capabilities, larger screen, thinner design, and improved performance make it "the iPhone we've always wanted," says Scott Stein of CNET. Available for AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint, the iPhone 5 boasts a 4-inch Retina display (a half-inch larger than the iPhone 4S and all older iPhones), a glass and aluminum body, improved camera technology, and the new iOS 6 operating system.
New OS adds features good and bad. The iPhone 5 comes with a new operating system, iOS 6. Improvements include call management tools, Facebook integration, a redesigned app store, better iCloud integration, and faster speeds. iOS 6 also includes Apple's new maps app, which replaces Google Maps. So far, the verdict is a big thumbs down. Users complain of poor turn-by-turn directions, distorted 3D map views and streets and businesses that are just plain missing. Reviewers also lament that transit directions are not built in. For more, see our Apple Maps blog post on Productopia.
iPhone 5 gets long-awaited 4G upgrade. "Two times faster? Twice the graphics performance? Better battery life? Actually, yes," says Tim Stevens of Engadget.com. "The iPhone 5 over-delivers on all those promises." Powering the iPhone 5 is a new A6 chip and a new operating system, iOS 6. Along with faster speeds, the iPhone 5 sports full Facebook integration, a redesigned app store and better iCloud integration. The dual-core processor also makes the iPhone "lightning-fast," says Christina Bonington of Wired.
One of the most anticipated upgrades to the iPhone 5 is its 4G LTE connectivity. The iPhone supports all the varieties of 4G in addition to LTE; GRPS, EDGE, EVDO, HSPA, HSPA+ 21, and DC HSPA 42. In tests, LTE is consistently fastest. AT&T and Verizon have large LTE networks; Sprint's smaller network continues to grow. Reviewers reported excellent data speeds during testing.
Call quality is slightly better. Apple has added a new technology known as wideband audio that will create more natural and clear-sounding call quality -- once carriers support it. The iPhone 5 also includes three microphones instead of two that reviewers say improve call quality and voice recognition. Battery life also holds out throughout the day despite power hogs like 4G speeds and the iPhone 5's faster processing power.
Less glass = less breakable. The iPhone 5 has swapped its glass backing on the 4S model for an aluminum shell, eliminating the risk of cracking if dropped.
A taller, brighter display. The iPhone 5 has swapped its glass backing on the 4S model for an aluminum shell, eliminating the risk of cracking if dropped. The front sports a thinner glass layer with integrated touch sensors and boasts 44 percent greater color saturation. The iPhone 5 is a half-inch longer than previous iterations, but no wider than the iPhone 4S (*Est. $100 with contract for 16 GB).
The redesign of the iPhone makes it 20 percent lighter and 18 percent thinner than its predecessor. Stein says consumers will be "shocked" at how light it feels. The standard 30-pin dock connector is traded out for a new 8-pin connector. An adaptor (*Est. $30) will be necessary for your new iPhone to work with your old accessories.
The big news is that Apple has upgraded the 3.5-inch display of the iPhone 4S to a 4-inch Retina display, leaving room for a fifth row of icons on the screen. "The screen isn't just bigger; it's more beautiful," says Mark Spoonauer of Laptop Magazine. The display offers "more vibrant-looking photos, games and more."
Camera improves quality and speed. The iPhone's camera gets incremental upgrades. The 8-megapixel camera has backside illumination, a five-element lens, and features that promise to improve low-light shooting. It now includes a panorama mode. Reviewers say shutter times are exceptionally fast. "The camera takes excellent pictures, a bit more so now than before," says Stein. Video records at 1080p and offers better stabilization, along with the ability to take photos while recording.
Experts say the iPhone 5 offers many of the changes Apple fans have clamored for -- but it's no longer the only show in town. Many of the iPhone 5's "upgrades" -- -- a larger display, 4G LTE, a better camera -- can already be had on Android smartphones, critics say. Still, aside from the Maps app, reviewers are pleased with its performance. "It's an iPhone," says PCMag.com's Sascha Segan, "but everything's better."
The iPhone 5 is available in both white and black. It costs $199 for 16GB, $299 for 32GB, and $399 for 64GB, all with a two-year contract. If you already have an iPhone and are thinking about an upgrade, see our related blog posts on selling your old iPhone and what's new with the iPhone 5.
Giving the iPhone 5 a score of 4 out of 5 stars, Scott Stein says that Apple has added "everything we wanted in the iPhone 4S," including 4G LTE, larger screen, built-in navigation, and a faster processor.
Review: IPhone 5 full review: Finally, the iPhone we've always wanted, Scott Stein, Sept. 21, 2012
Calling the iPhone 5 the "upgrade Apple needed," Sascha Segan explores what's changed and why it "doesn't need to be the highest spec phone in the world" to be an excellent smartphone.
Review: Hands On: Apple iPhone 5 (With Video), Sascha Segan, Sept. 13, 2012
Labeling the iPhone 5 as "the best handset you can buy," Christina Bonnington says the latest iPhone has refined the subtle flaws of the iPhone 4S.
Review: High Five, Christina Bonnington, Sept. 26, 2012
"Thinner. Lighter. Faster. Simpler," is Tim Stevens' assessment of the iPhone 5. He says the new model is a "significant improvement" over the iPhone 4S.
Review: iPhone 5 review, Tim Stevens, Sept. 18, 2012
5. The New York Times
David Pogue concludes that the iPhone 5 is definitely an upgrade, but the change in connectors is frustrating for those whose old devices will no longer be compatible without buying an adapter plug.
Review: The iPhone 5 Scores Well, With a Quibble, David Pogue, Sept. 18, 2012
6. Laptop Magazine
Rating the iPhone 5 4 out of 5 stars, Mark Spoonauer concludes that it "improves upon a great smartphone in every way while offering a shockingly thin and light design."
Review: Apple iPhone 5 (Verizon Wireless) Review, Mark Spoonauer, Sept. 22, 2012