Apple iPhone 5 release update

We look at some of the features on offer and what you can expect to get once it arrives.
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01.Apple iPhone 5


Price: 16GB/$799; 32GB/$899; 64GB/$999.  

Text and images provided by Which?

With the iPhone 5 arriving on our shores CHOICE looks at some of the features on offer.

In Australia you can buy the iPhone outright or on a plan using the phone network of your choice.  If you're considering buying one, you might want to check out the newly released pricing plans of TelstraVodafone, and Optus for the iPhone 5. 

Our sister publication Which? highlights some of the specifications and features, with our own review of the phone with the latest update to our smartphone report.

What is the iPhone 5?

It’s the latest version of Apple’s smartphone range.

Its got its own Maps

After cutting ties with Google Maps for effective yet basic navigation, Apple is highlighting that it is the first iPhone to feature free built-in turn-by-turn navigation, although the performance in this area is a cause for concern, with many errors in the Maps results prompting an open letter apology from Apple's CEO. 

iPhone4-and-iPhone5It’s got a larger, 4-inch screen

Previous iPhones have steadfastly stuck to a original’s 3.5-inch screen, which was one of the largest screens in the industry on its release in 2007. 

However this increased size screen is still at the smaller end of the scale, compared to the massive screens on some of the best iPhone 5 alternatives – such as Samsung’s Galaxy S3 with a 4.8-inch screen and the Galaxy Note with 5.3-inch screen. 

The iPhone 5 4-inch screen is 0.5 inches larger than before, although its still small enough so you can use the phone in one hand comfortably as the additional increase in size has been achieved by making the handset longer rather than wider.

Basically, there is room for another row of icons compared to the previous iPhone.

What does this mean for me?

It means you’ll see more information on screen at any one time. All of Apple’s apps have been redesigned to work on the larger screen, while there’s now space for five rows of icons on the home screen instead of four – handy if you find yourself running out of space. Apps that haven’t updated for the new screen will have black bars above and below until they’re updated.

It supports faster, 4G mobile internet

The iPhone 5 supports a new standard of faster mobile internet, known as 4G and touted as being up to five times faster than 3G. Our testing supports this claim as performance when using the 4G dongle or the Samsung Galaxy SII (4G version) was very impressive in our NextG test carried out early this year. 

However aside from Telstra, it will take awhile for the other carriers such as Optus and Vodafone to establish the new network, even after announcing their plans for wider support in 2013. In practice this means speeds of up to around 20Mbps in strong signal areas, which is fast enough to stream HD video and is as fast (if not faster) than many home broadband wireless connections. However, don't expect 4G availability to be widely available as the focus for the phone networks is to provide the service to the most populated areas only.

It’s got a new, smaller dock connector

Another poorly-kept secret was a new, smaller dock connector. Apple’s redesigned the connector so it’s 80% smaller than the old 30-pin plug, and it’s reversible so it doesn't matter which way up you put it in.

What does this mean for me?

The main impact here is to any accessories you own, such as speaker docks or battery packs, that connect to the dock connection. Obviously the iPhone 5 won’t work with them out of the box, but Apple has developed an adapter to solve this problem. It remains to be seen whether this adapter will work properly as it may not be particularly stable. The big push to wireless connectivity with docks should drive Airplay and other Bluetooth based developments for docks over the next year.

iPhone5-earbudsThe headphones are super comfortable…

…or, at least, so says Apple. Every iPhone 5 comes with a newly designed set of headphones, called EarPods, that Apple says have been in development for three years and tried out on hundreds of different users' ears. They’re designed to fit more comfortably and, hopefully, sound better too.


It’s the thinnest smartphone in the world, again

Okay, so this one isn’t about to reshape your life, but the iPhone 5 is the thinnest and lightest to date. It’s 18% thinner, now just 7.6mm down from 9.3mm, and it’s 20% lighter,  or 112g down from 140g. While the basic design and shape appears the same, the back now has an aluminium panel instead of being made totally of glass.

What does this mean for me?

This rather depends on how much value you put on a phone being thin and light. No doubt it’ll feel great in the hand – especially if Apple has smoothed the slightly sharp feeling edges of the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. But we’d sooner have a phone that was the same weight as before but with better battery life.

New processor and graphics are twice as fast

No new phone is complete if it’s not faster and better than before, and the iPhone 5 is no exception. It gets an upgrade to the same Apple A6 processor as the iPad 3, which Apple claims is twice as fast as the processor in the iPhone 4S and iPad 2.

What does this mean for me?

Depending how you use your phone this could be a big thing or you might not even notice the difference. If you like running a lot of complicated apps and want the latest 3D games on your smartphone, the new processor could really speed things up. But, if you don’t demand much of your phone and the extent of your gaming is a bit of Angry Birds now and then, the new processor is unlikely to get out of first gear and prove its worth.

New camera with sapphire crystal lens

After slimming down the phone Apple needed to make some changes to the camera to get it to fit in the new case. But instead of just moving some parts around, Apple reckons it has improved the quality with a new dynamic low-light mode,  precision lens alignment and a move to sapphire crystal lenses. There’s also improved image processing and it can apparently capture photos 40% faster.

However don't think iPhone 4S users will lose out on all the new features as some of the features are to delivered with the upcoming iOS 6, so things like Panorama photos will be available on the iPhone 4S when the iOS 6 update becomes available.



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