'Bright, responsive and it just feels right': MailOnline's verdict on the iPhone 5 - simply the best smartphone ever made
Stunning new design and larger screen put Apple ahead of the competition
New version of iOS software available for existing iPhone and iPad users from today
By MARK PRIGG
PUBLISHED: 02:07, 19 September 2012 | UPDATED: 19:09, 19 September 2012
Apple's iPhone 5 is already breaking sales records, with over two million preorders in 24 hours. It finally goes on sale on Friday - but MailOnline has already tested it.
The iPhone 5 was possibly the most anticipated electronics product in history.
For months before its release, every nuance and design decision (whether real or not) was picked apart online.
However, last week Apple’s Phil Schiller finally unveiled the iPhone 5, and on Friday, it goes on sale in the US and UK, along with several other countries, having already notched up a record setting 2 million preorders in just 24 hours.
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But is the iPhone 5 worth the astonishing level of interest?
After almost a week with the handset, the answer is simple - yes.
On the surface, the iPhone 5 is simply an evolution.
There’s a bigger screen, faster processor, and a new version of Apple’s iOS software to power it.
There are, on paper at least, no massive surprises and no radical changes to an admittedly winning formula.
However, the key to the iPhone 5 is simple - attention to detail.
Pick it up, and it just doesn’t feel like a smartphone - but instead, uncannily like one of the very best made watches.
The attention to detail is frankly astonishing, with everything from the diamond polished sides to the screen fitting together not just well, but perfectly.
The black version has a matt back, while the white, which we used, has a silver back which gives the handset some ‘grippiness’ as well as looking very different to previous models (for the all important showing off to your friends).
Even the weight distribution has been thought through, and the phone feels ‘right’ when held in the hand.
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Physically, there’s a huge drop in weight (to 112g) and it’s just 7.2mm thin.
It makes an absolutely huge difference, and contributes to making this feel like more of a major product update than pictures alone would have you believe.
The dock connector has attracted a huge amount of criticism, and while yes, it does create problems for a lot of older accessories, it really is a lot easier to use - smaller, and two sided so you can’t put it in the wrong way round.
Apple has completely redesigned its headphones, now rather oddly called EarPods, into a unique shape which, the firm says is designed to fit the majority of ears.
They are surprisingly good, and a vast improvement on previous models, while still keeping the distinctive white colour.
Sound quality is excellent, and bass in particular has been dramatically boosted.
For anyone serious about music it’s probably still worth upgrading to a third party pair, but for the occasional listener they are more than good enough - and now far better than many of the cheaper upgrades on the market.
The headphone connector has also been moved to the bottom of the handset, and this makes a lot more sense when it’s in your pocket.
The iPhone 5 is also able to support superfast 4G networks, but unfortunately we were unable to test this as they have not yet launched in the UK.
You'll also need a new, smaller SIM card known as a nanosim to use the phone - but most operators should have these in stock when the handset goes on sale.
However, on 3G, the phone is faster than previous models thanks to its support of higher speed 3G networks.
Switch it on, and the other big difference is apparent - the larger, 4 inch screen.
There’s room for another row of apps, and the screen is bright, sharp, and incredibly responsive.
Apple has spent a lot of time getting the touch the feel right, and it shows - scrolling and flicking around apps feel natural.
Obviously the bigger screen does create an issue with older apps, and you’ll see bars at the top and bottom of the screen with these, although otherwise they work perfectly.
However, expect a slew of updates over the coming days to solve this.
We were able to try Apple’s own apps in their new, big screened glory, and the extra screen does make a big difference - suddenly apps seem more immersive, and everything seems to make more impact, with gaming in particular set to be a big winner.
Both front and rear camera have also received a boost, and the front camera is a huge improvement when making FaceTime video calls.
A panoramic image taken with the iPhone 5
The larger screen also improves web browsing, allowing more of a page to be seen on screen.
Meanwhile the rear camera has also had a big upgrade, with picture quality better and a new panorama mode allowing you to stitch together images on the fly to create a huge panorama.
This is easy to take, as on screen directions tell you exactly how quickly to move the camera.
One of the biggest complaints about the older iPhones was battery life, and this has been improved - but not dramatically enough that you won’t need a boost most days if you’re a heavy user.
It's a shame, but something of an achilles heel for all smartphones - and expect a huge range of external cases and batteries supporting the new connector to go on sale very quickly.
Apart from the hardware, Apple has completely overhauled it’s iOS software, although fundamentally it still operates in the same way.
However, on the iPhone 5's improved hardware, it feels faster, more responsive and snappier than previous handsets, including the latest Android models.
The preinstalled apps have also undergone a redesign for the new screen, and they look far better, with the music app in particular benefiting from a cleaner layout.
Apple has also redesigned its app store, and this is less of a triumph - while it's slick, and looks great, actually finding apps is something of a chore unless you know what you're looking for.
There are also some omissions from the home screen - with Google's YouTube and Maps apps being banished as the smartphone war between the two firms intensifies.
One of the big differences in iOS 6 is the inclusion of a new app, Maps.
Whereas Apple had previously relied on Google, it has now decided to go out on its own and develop an app.
Obviously developing from the ground up would be virtually impossible, so Apple has partnered with several major firms, most notably Tom Tom, to use its maps data.
On the surface, Apple’s maps is quite similar to Google’s.
However, the maps feel cleaner, and easier to follow than Google’s, which often seem to cram too much information on.
The satnav implementation is also slick, while the 3D buildings look particularly impressive - although admittedly they are little more than a gimmick for most people.
However, there is one big omission for commuters - transport directions.
Currently Apple points people towards third party apps for these, but it is something the firm will need to address in the future to compete with Google.
Standard 2D maps had a clean feel to them - and we found coverage excellent
3D Maps are impressive, but only major cities are currently covered
iOS also now has a built in satnav feature, which is clean and well thought out
Will the iPhone 5 attract droves of users to switch from Android? Probably not.
Android handsets have made huge advances in recent months, and handsets like the Galaxy S3 were almost on a par with the iPhone 4S.
However, with the iPhone 5, Apple has really raised the bar, not just for the smartphone market, but consumer electronics in general.
The level of care and engineering that has gone into the handset is unprecedented, and while iPhone owners are no doubt already reaching for their wallets, for anyone who was on the fence, the iPhone 5 puts clear water between Apple and its competitors.
And if you really can't wait until Friday to try out the new features, don't panic - iOS 6 is being made available for free as an update for iPhones and iPads.
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