This week, Apple's big day finally came and went, and we're left with some impressive new products. The star of the show, of course, is the iPhone 5, which largely conformed to many of the more recent leaked photos and videos.
But how does the smartphone measure up to our wishlist? Note that this isn't quite a rumour validation story; so many rumours flew back and forth that it would be almost impossible to cover them all anyway. Instead, let's look at what we really wanted to see in the iPhone 5, and then compare it with what we actually got.
This was the big one; we wanted it and got it. After five generations of the iPhone, Apple has finally upped the size of the touchscreen panel, moving from 3.5in to 4in. That's still nowhere near the size of today's gargantuan smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S III and the Nokia Lumia 920. But it's telling that Apple kept the width the same as the earlier models, and instead just made the phone a bit taller, giving the iPhone 5 a 16:9 aspect ratio, instead of 4:3 like the iPhone 4S. The 16:9 format is, of course, better for movie watching.
In order to accommodate the unusual screen panel size, Apple introduced an unusual screen resolution (1,136 x 640) which perfectly preserves the iPhone 4S' 326ppi pixel density, and therefore its Retina display designation. This also conformed to what we expected, although the exact resolution was up for debate. As we said the other day, this shouldn't put much extra pressure on third-party app developers, who using today's advanced APIs shouldn't have much trouble accommodating the new resolution. And any improvements in the A6 processor should help compensate for pushing around the additional pixels, which brings us neatly to the next item on the agenda...
Although details remain scant at this point, the new A6 processor looks to be exactly what the iPhone 5 needed to keep up with the times. Roughly speaking, it’s twice as fast as its predecessor’s CPU at many tasks. Tellingly, Apple didn't say anything about quad-core graphics, meaning that the A6 SoC likely remains a dual-core CPU and a dual-core GPU. It didn't get the A5x from the iPad, but that's actually not a surprise, because the A5x doesn't have the right size or power consumption specifications for the iPhone to begin with.
This was actually the biggest surprise for us. We expected the larger screen, but we weren't expecting to see a dramatic weight reduction or a much thinner phone. However, this is exactly what Apple has accomplished. The new iPhone 5, at 112 grams, is 28 grams lighter than the iPhone 4S, and at 7.6mm deep, it's thinner than even recent ultra-slim Android handsets like the Galaxy S III. We can't wait to put the iPhone 5 through its paces and see if keeping the width the same was worth the trade-off in possible extra screen resolution.
We expected it, we got it, but we didn't particularly want it. Nonetheless, we understand the rationale behind revamping the connector; Apple had essentially hit the limit in terms of squeezing the old one into thinner and thinner phones. We're still not happy about it, though, as the new connector remains proprietary and doesn't conform to the much more universal microUSB standard.
We obviously won't be able to fully evaluate this point for several months, as various reports begin to trickle in about how the iPhone 5 is holding up for everyone. But as we had hoped, it's pretty clear that the iPhone 5 will do better in this regard than its predecessor, thanks to the switch to a metal rear panel instead of the all-glass one on the iPhone 4S. Glass is beautiful, but we'll be happy to see less cracked iPhone 5s over the years. Otherwise, the jury is still out.
This was widely expected, and Apple delivered. It had to really, as particularly in the States, where LTE is forging ahead, it would have been a bit embarrassing for Cupertino’s latest smartphone not to have this on board. The good news for us Brits is that the iPhone 5 supports 4G LTE on EE (Everything Everywhere’s new 4G brand), which should cover a third of the UK by the end of 2012. That will be a lot of folks with access to super-fast mobile broadband speeds.
We wanted them, we expected them, and we got 'em – which is just as well, as the old Apple earbuds sound terrible. The new Apple EarPods come with the iPhone 5 and iPods, or you can buy them separately from Apple for £25. How good are they? Read our review of the EarPods here.
Apple delivered here as we had hoped, even despite the iPhone 4S' already top-notch camera. Of course there's still no optical zoom, because that would be impossible to fit in a 7.6mm thick phone given today's technology. But the new iPhone 5 includes a panorama mode, improved image stabilisation, improved low-light performance and noise reduction, and faster shutter and save speeds. We also finally got the 720p HD FaceTime front camera we've been pining for, although we'll admittedly use it more for self-portraits than anything else.
We weren't expecting it, and we didn't get it. We've been debating the merits of Near Field Communication in the office here a lot lately, and it's not particularly surprising that Apple decided to pass on this given that the technology has yet to take off in earnest. It’s finally starting to gain some momentum, though, so NFC is a fair bet for the iPhone 6.
Apple claims it has delivered a longer battery life, with slight improvements for the iPhone 5’s longevity over the 4S. The iPhone 5 offers the same 8 hours talk time, but 8 hours of 3G surfing, up from 6 hours on the iPhone 4S. The iPhone 5 also offers an extra hour of Wi-Fi browsing, and 225 hours on standby versus 200 hours for the iPhone 4S. Those improvements aren’t bad considering the extra juice the pepped up hardware such as the new CPU and LTE radio will use.
And that about wraps things up. If you’re hungry for more on the iPhone 5’s spec, we’ve got plenty of head-to-head spec comparisons against rival high-end smartphones. Take a look at the iPhone 5 versus the Nokia Lumia 920 here, the Samsung Galaxy S III here, the Galaxy Note 2, and finally the HTC One X.
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