After five years of sticking to a standard 3.5 inch display size, Apple has finally given the iPhone a larger display. And a massive design makeover. As well as the usual spec boost. But how well does all this add up?
We have seen our share of gorgeous phones, but nothing prepared us for the understated beauty of the iPhone 5. Although the new iPhone is taller than its predecessors in terms of screen size, it actually is much lighter (a mere 112 grammes) thanks to the materials used, and at 7.6mm is the thinnest smartphone we have ever reviewed. But this anorexia does not come at the cost of material quality. The device is a mix of glass and aluminum, with the edge near the display being polished by diamonds to a sheen, the back made of light (yet solid) aluminum and even the glass over the camera on the back being made of sapphire crystal. This phone radiates understated class. And yes, it still fits comfortably in even relatively small palms.
We have got used to seeing a new iPhone hit the market every year with improved specs. The iPhone 5 is no different. The biggest change is the display - it is the first to sport a larger, 4.0-inch display. It is a retina one with a 326 dpi count, and higher resolution too, although at 1136 x 640, it is not an HD one (like on the Galaxy Note). It is powered by a new chip - the A6 processor - and claims to offer even better graphics. The camera remains at 8.0-megapixels and connectivity options include LTE, 3G, GPS, Bluetooth (limited still) and Wi-Fi. There are some changes in the accompanying hardware too - the conventional earphones have been replaced by EarPods which have been designed to fit your ear better. And then there is the matter of the connection which moves from being a 30-pin affair to a Lightning connector, which incidentally can be fitted into the phone from either side up - common sense and so very Apple!
The iPhone 5 comes preinstalled with iOS 6, and although older devices can also be updated to it, the iPhone 5 runs it best of all. The most discussed feature of the new software have been the Maps, and with good reason. Apple’s decision to replace Google Maps with its own has not really worked and suffice to say, if you are planning to use the iPhone 5 to find your way around in India, you are going to have a very tough time indeed. Many areas and routes are not marked and navigation is frankly awful. An update to fix this all could not come too soon. On the positive side, the camera app has received a massive boost with a really fast moving panorama mode and Siri has got a more versatile and can now open apps on your device and also let you post status updates and the like. The bigger screen also means you get an extra row of apps. Critically, iOS remains as easy as ever to use and works with silky smoothness. And the app treasury is as rich as ever, with the big screen making them look even better than before, although not all of them are optimised for it yet (there is some “box”ing).
On the multimedia front, what really stunned us was the improvement in sound quality both from the loudspeakers. The EarPods actually work and while they will not knock third-party headsets out of the market, they do enough to keep one contented with what one has. Apple says the camera too has improved but truth be told, we could not see a massive improvement over the previous edition - there was a slight purple tinge in some daylight shots but nothing to really bother us overmuch. Image and video quality on this device remain awesome, although we still do not like having to sync with iTunes for transferring media content at times.
We have been using an iPhone 4S for about eight months now and one thing that we can attest to is that the iPhone 5 is much, much faster. Tasks like games, video editing and even routine switching between apps happen at a brisker rate. And a pleasant surprise is the battery life. We got through an entire day without once feeling the urge to recharge, with social networks and mail buzzing. The big screen also makes a definite change when it comes to tasks like browsing the Web and viewing video.
There are no two ways about it - the iPhone 5 is perhaps the best phone around for those who are looking for the perfect balance of style and substance. It looks gorgeous and thanks to iOS’s app treasury lets you do just about everything from playing high end games to editing high definition video on it. That said, it comes with a very stiff price tag - Rs 45,500 onwards. Those looking for a similar display and apps could opt for the iPod touch which is available for Rs 24,000 onwards, although they will have to do without the calling facility and manage with a 5.0-megapixel camera. If you insist on having the phone facility, then there is the iPhone 4S which has a similar camera, but a slower processor and smaller screen, and which is now available for around Rs 39,500.