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Review: iPhone 5


September 21, 2012

Does the iPhone 5 live up to the hype?

Does the iPhone 5 live up to the hype?

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Buzz for the iPhone 5 began way back in 2010. Many then assumed that the iPhone 4's sequel would be a major redesign; instead we got the incrementally-updated iPhone 4S. It brought a much-improved camera, a faster chip, and Siri, but it wasn't a breakthrough update. We would have to wait a full 27 months after the iPhone 4 to get our hands on the next big refresh.

Now that it's here, was the iPhone 5 worth the wait? To sum this review up in one word: absolutely.


The iPhone 5 (bottom) is 1.7mm thinner than the iPhone 4S.

When discussing the iPhone 5, you have to start with design. It may not appear to be a radical departure from the appearance of the iPhone 4/4S, but the beauty here is in the details.

The most significant detail: weight. This iPhone is light – 112 grams to be exact. The iPhone 4 and 4S never felt heavy to me, but they do now. Much like the first Retina Display made the previous iPhones' 480x320 resolution look antiquated, the iPhone 5 makes Apple's prior handsets feel like bricks.

The second most striking design detail is thickness. Apple shrunk the iPhone 5 down to 7.6 mm, way down from the last two iPhones' 9.3 mm. Apple claims that it's the thinnest smartphone ever, and it probably is (the Droid Razr measures 7.1 mm, but that spec conveniently ignores its protruding hump). Regardless of the competition, the iPhone 5 is razor-thin.

Of course the iPhone 5 also sports a longer design (8.6 mm longer than the last iPhones, but the same width) and a longer display. The new shape feels great in the hand. Apple scrapped the glass back this year and replaced it with a unibody aluminum backing. The sides of the phone harken back to the 4/4S's external antenna frame – only this time it too is aluminum (previously it was stainless steel).

Beauty can't necessarily be objectified, but it's hard not to appreciate the unified design of the iPhone 5. It may be Jony Ive's best work yet.


The 4-inch display works better than I expected. The 16:9 aspect ratio makes for a more oblong window into your digital world, but Apple uses it well. Landscape videos play in their native aspect ratio, you can see more of your emails when typing, and you get an extra row of apps on your home screen.

There are some areas where the 16:9 frame feels a little wonky. Photos have black letterboxes in both portrait and landscape mode (until you zoom in). App Store apps that haven't yet been updated for the new display also get letterboxed, though that will soon be a moot point. Browsing Safari in landscape mode could also feel a bit cramped, but Apple added a new full-screen mode to iOS 6, which works brilliantly.

The resolution is 1136x640, with the same sharp 326 pixels per inch (ppi) as the last two iPhones. In the iPhone 5, Apple moved those 727,040 pixels closer to the surface by moving a layer of touch electrodes. The resulting appearance is a welcome change. It's moving closer to the Hogwarts parchment illusion: ink moving on paper.

Apple claims that the iPhone 5 has 44 percent greater color saturation than the last iPhones, and, though I have no way of testing that, colors do look better. It's almost indisputably the best smartphone display on the market.


This baby zips. I didn't notice a dramatic difference at first, but I soon saw it flying through tasks that would have bogged down the 4S. Most notable is the camera app, where I could go from sleep mode to snapping a picture in under three seconds. You can fire a burst of shots with no hesitation. It also flies through the new Flyover (3D aerial) feature in Maps; panning, zooming, and rendering of bird's-eye views happen instantly.

What will developers be able to do with games on the iPhone 5? At the iPhone 5 event, EA offered an impressive preview of Real Racing 3, and that could just be scratching the surface. Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft should take notice: the gap between mobile devices and consoles is rapidly shrinking.


After four generations of 3G, the iPhone 5 jumps into the land of 4G (sorry, AT&T;, but I don't count HSPA+ 14.4). Those who live in an area with LTE coverage will see data speeds that may match or better their home broadband connections.

I haven't yet been able to test LTE on the iPhone 5, but LTE Android phones have been around long enough for us to know what speeds expect. Apps will download quickly, videos will stream instantly, and VoIP apps like Skype will sound near-perfect.

In the US, Verizon has – by far – the most expansive LTE network, followed by AT&T;, and then Sprint. Sprint is the only US iPhone carrier that still offers unlimited data, though, so everyone else will need to monitor their usage.


The iPhone 5's camera is only a minor improvement over the iPhone 4S, but it outperforms it in the most important area: low-light shooting. In my tests, indoor and poorly-lit shots looked much brighter and clearer than they did on the 4S.


Apple's redesigned earbuds ("EarPods") are a big improvement. In this case, the company's marketing is right on: they fit much more snugly and comfortably in the ear, and the sound is greatly improved. They won't replace $400 TripleFi premium earphones, but they're excellent economy headphones for most people.

Bundled for free they're a steal, and, for the $30 price for a standalone pair, you can do much worse.


The new smaller Lightning connector is tiny and convenient (its reversible design is a subtle but nice touch), and it allowed Apple to make the iPhone 5 so thin. There is, however, one big issue: unless you shell out $30 for an adapter, all of your old iPod/iPhone accessories will be useless.

I don't know how much it costs Apple to make the 30-pin to Lightning adapters, but $30 is a steep admission fee just to continue using your old docks and speakers. Even if Tim Cook & Co. couldn't bundle the adapter with the iPhone 5, it would have been nice to see it come in under $20. If any company can afford to eat a little cost for the customer's convenience, it's Apple.

Summing up

The iPhone 5 is a terrific phone. If you're looking for the best smartphone on the market, you'd have to at least start here. On paper, it doesn't bring much that hasn't been done before, but it integrates those elements (performance, larger screen, LTE) into a seamless package. Above all, it's a pleasure to use.

Combine that with iOS's balance of power, simplicity, and elegance (see our in-depth look at iOS 6), and the iPhone 5 is like a remastered version of a classic movie. It's a familiar experience, but its refinements are in all the right places.

About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Before finding a home at Gizmag, he had stints at a number of other sites, including Android Central, Geek and the Huffington Post. Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica. All articles by Will Shanklin

The best smartphone? It's everything but the best smartphone. It has still outdated hardware and is way overpriced. 200 dollars to produce and sold for 6 to 800. Low mp camera, can't upgrade memory, no standard connector. Can't believe how easy people are fooled.

Erik Bosch

@Erik Bosch

Read the whole sentence carefully before you jump to hasty conclusions like that. He said "you'd have to AT LEAST start here...".

Ronnie Kwan

Who wastes their money on this crap?.. $800? really? If you want a high def screen get a 42" led!!


How is the hardware outdated? In ALL benchmarks it out performs every other phone on the market. Look it up.

8MP is low??? News to me. MP means nothing in the digital photography world. It's the size of the pixels, low-light resolution, f-stops, and speeds that count. More megapixels DOES NOT mean it takes better photos.

Shawn Anderson

Erik, dude, it's a smartphone. If it's the "best" for the author, who are you to question that? It may not be the best for you - so don't buy one. Your apparent dislike for Apple products doesn't make them bad - only bad for you. Go chill somewhere with your favorite device and be happy.

Vince Pack


I think you need to put your consumer hat on for a moment.

The hardware specs do not matter to most people. They just want a phone that works and is easy to use. Just because the "specs" are better doesn't mean you should buy it - it should be how it works.

If you are talking about pure speed of the processor again this is becoming less important. Apple is developing their own architecture. This will matter significantly in the future as they will be able to control the power consumption of their products and integrate other processes into it while maintaining the speed needed for their products.

Finally, the pricing for the iPhone is somewhat high without a contract. "200 dollars to produce" is just the parts for assembly. That does not include research and development and the creation of the manufacturing equipment that will ultimately make the device, plus royalties for patent holders, and more. The iPhone costs just as much as the S3 with a new contract. As a designer myself I was blown away by the build quality of the new iPhone. I would suggest you watch the movie on their front screen to better understand the processes that are used to create just the exterior of the iPhone5. Is made from aluminum and glass instead of S3s polycarbonate.

It comes down to preference. I understand your point of view and why you would rather buy an android (for its quasi-"open" stance) or windows phone (I think the Lumia looks interesting)... but your arguments against the iPhone are stale and lack overall understanding of what a "normal" non-tech consumer wants and the processes and economics of product development.


"This iPhone is light – 112 grams to be exact. The iPhone 4 and 4S never felt heavy to me, but they do now." 25 grams or about 0.85 ounces is the difference. About five teaspoons of water.


I think Apple are insulting their loyal customers. They expect their customers to pay $30 for a cable that was originally speculated to be given away free. It's known that there is huge profits in cables are they are produced so cheaply. Apple will make huge profits on the cable alone, let alone the high price on a phone with standard update. Add to that their own obsession with being a single entity and losing the far superior Google maps in favor of their own broken and outdated version. Is all of this putting their loyal customer first? I'm going nowhere near Apple!

Rich Paine

Good Apple Ad. No mention of the new Apple maps which I read is not very good at all. No comparison of battery life with new larger screen and faster processor. But none of anything matters, as Apple fans will buy it no matter what it does or doesn't do and Adnroid fans won't.


I find it interesting to read comments from others about how technology isn't something they expected to be. I'm not an apple only person nor any other brand. I choose products that bring the most function or services for the price I'm willing to pay. it's silly to conclude that a manufacture disrespects the consumer by forcing them to purchase an adapter so their legacy products still function. All technology changes over time and for the most part in a positive move forward. Computers are a prime example, used to be huge, only had ps2 ports for keyboards, then ther is the video port that is constantly evolving along with the internal changes in memory dimm and accessory slots. Its enough to make your head spin. Remember what cell phones were just 5 to 10 years ago. WOW, the changes from then to now are amazing. People forget that certain technology isn't available to make the next huge leap forward which will radically change form an function. For example, power cells. Batteries have come a long way but without a radical change in power storage these phones are not going to be able to get thinner an lighter. Same goes for the cable connector. I would prefer absolutely NO cables, no external buttons, a sheet of polymer that has a display on either side that is mere millimeters thick, an when I put it in my pocket the phone syncs up with my sunglasses which has heads up displays with retina tracking so I don't even need to take the phone out of my pocket. Yeah that tech isn't here yet. But the mobile phone wasn't either just a short time ago. I guess what I'm saying is. Change is coming an we need to be a little patient while new technologies are developed and eventually integrated into the products we love so much.

Not sure if I'm getting the 5. I think IOs6 on my 4s will be fine for some time. Or maybe I'll check out the next gen Samsung coming soon.


Cherokee Warrior

Most people dont care about battery life when it comes to buying the phone they want also at the moment Google is getting investigated by the EU over antitrust. The EU thinks Google is charging too much for other companies to use its services - if you thought you were getting charged too much for something wouldn't you try and do it yourself.

I haven't tried the iPhone5 or Galaxy S3 but iPhone5 has the newer tech while the Galaxy S3 is the bigger phone.

Gordon Smith

I'm not a consumer that will immediately update a device simply because a new iteration has been released. I'm also not a big Apple fan. Love my iPod; don't like the iPhone; prefer working with a PC not a Mac. The reasons I don't like the iPhone are not always to do with specs or performance; they formed part of the reasons for what I got. I prefer the more open [in all aspects] of Android devices. I want a device that is primarily a PDA - need the organiser functions with a reasonable phone capability. Don't use PDA for music - I have my iPod - and it has to feel good in the hand and in the pocket. Ended up with Samsung/Google Nexus. I like it - to me it feels so much better than an iPhone.

Point of this waffle is everything is personal, including reviewers' opinions.

Dave Lazzari

apple seems to be turning into a digital version of North Korea


I have no clue what all the technical bits are or mean but herewith my experience. I had the iphone 4s but i broke it by accident. The insurnance company bought me the new Galaxy s 3. Whenever i use my wifes iphone i miss my iphone. Galaxy is great yes but still not the iphone. By the time i take the phone out of my bag i have sent an sms,deleted an email,and dropped the call. For me its great on the desk when you are not using it in your hands. A Galaxy is for someone who is patient and sits most of the day with the phone on the desk with a blue tooth ear piece. Just my experience as a silly day to day user.


I'm afraid iPhone 5 will be too hot, like iPad 3. New powerful processor and reduced thickness = hot temperature.

Michele Cecchini

This is not a review, it's a cheerleading exercise. Towing the Apple line I'm afraid. Where is your journalistic critical voice Gizmag? How is bigger better? Who wants more screen? You have an iPad for that. Why is there no mention of battery life, iPhone's are notoriously crap. And now set to make life even more difficult because you need an adaptor to use your old gear. Certainly not just one adaptor-- because you need one in the office, one in the car, one at home, one for travel. That's 4 at $30 bucks each. Nice profit Apple. Sure aluminium is lighter but what about when the phone slips out of your hand? As it does often.. because it's designed like a bar of soap. Why don't people complain about this? I mean you spend $800 on a phone that needs a cheap plastic cover? How does that make any sense? We're all pawns in Apple's game but soon the veil will lift. Not with Gizmag's help anyway.


iPhone 5 is a fail. Please people. Its an inch bigger screen and LTE which is pretty obvious at this point. Compare to something like the new Lumia 920 or any of the Samsung/HTC phones running Android and this phone is a bust. Apple did a great job kicking the smart phone industry in the pants but its now at the bottom of the heap.

Rocky Stefano

For the love of God, please stop comparing mobile devices to gaming consoles! No serious gamer would sit down and play a game on a smart-phone. Would you really pick a small screen over a large one to watch a movie or play a game? No, two different things all together.


Looks like this guy didn't give a real workout to Apple's new Maps ;-)

And tell me, @Everydream, your point that $200 doesn't take into account the other costs involved that you list is well taken, but how come Android smart-phones of comparable power and features are so much less expensive? In one word, PROFIT.

I agree that iPhones look good and the user interface may be better, but I don't think it justifies the huge profit margins that Apple has. They simply are not giving that much bang for the buck. And as Will, the author, points out, doing something to cushion the blow that their change in the connector is causing wouldn't have bankrupted them.


"...unless you shell out $30 for an adapter, all of your old iPod/iPhone accessories will be useless."

Why do all these reviewers continue to say this?? Is Apple going to secretly disable all my currently working cables? Just sounds like they're trying to get a rise out of us. I have plenty of cables that will work with my iPod, and my kid's iPod touches. The only change is that my new phone will have its own connector...big whoop... Peace!


There's a lot complaining about having to the adapter, and rightly so. Everyone puts this down to profit-making, but I don't think that's the real reason (although I doubt anyone at the Infinity Loop is complaining about the extra cash). Apple's always been of the opinion that they know what's better for their consumers than the consumers themselves. Whether or not they DO actually know better is irrelevant for my argument. So if Apple isn't profit-chasing, what are they up to? Given their control-freak nature, we could infer that they're attempting to influence both consumers' AND third party accessory producers' decisions. As a consumer, if the adapter was bundled with the phone, I would have no incentive to go and buy the accessories with Lightning ports since these are likely to be more expensive than the old ones. However, if I have to pay for the adapter, suddenly I'm open to forking out a little extra for the new toys instead. If I was a producer of accessories on the other hand, I'd want to keep using the old ports since everyone can use them (assuming Apple bundled the adapter for free). But because Apple is forcing consumers to buy the adapter, the former is creating an artificially induced demand for Lightning ports, thereby hastening the death of the old ones (which is very likely Apple's objective). Whether or not people like what Apple's doing is an entirely different question.

Paresh Badal

biased article ... there are loads of better and cheaper smartphones out there

Stefan Padureanu

Android phone users can shop around retail stores/internet sites for the best phone prices. Can you do that with the iPhone5?? :-D

Marco Corona

Gordon Smith,

Newer tech? Where have you been getting your information from? The "new" technology implemented in the iPhone 5, is pretty old compared to that of the Android. We have had 4G, larger screens, better maps and a whole slew of other technologies for years and iPhone is just getting around to them. I was leaning in the direction of buying the iPhone 5 because there are apps that I want that are not available on the Android platform, but after reading what the iPhone 5 offers compared to what we have had for years on the Android platform and the price, I think I'll stick with my Android a little longer and see what the next gen has to offer.

John Vonesh

OK, you've told us about a tiny computer called a mobile phone. The question is: can you make clear reliable phone calls on it, or does shrinking everything mean you can't hear the speaker, can't hear it ring. Has call quality further declined as the new cellular protocols switch to giving more data, and cut off all calls further away from the cell tower when they reduce transmit power to start calls from closer handsets? Or don't people use these things as a telephone to talk business any more??


Apple is still shoveling it's garbage into the trough of the sheeple. This phone is a HUGE disappointment. For all of the hype it was given, it should be curing cancer by now.

Apple still continues to rip it's customers off with add-ons that either should have been included or introduced at a modest price. $30 for an adapter ? Apple is now up there with the same crooks who rip people off selling HDMI cables for hundreds of dollars.

Companies manufacturing phone need to really be cutting edge if they want me to part with my hard earned money. I have yet to see a phone with a USB port to access your everyday files. Battery lives on most phones stink. Why can't manufacturers use a nano-carbon matrix to enhance battery life. Why are we just getting dual core processors in phone when quad core processors are standard on servers.There are algorithms to monitor power usage and thermal stability. Why would you be using stainless steel in a phone and not a magnesium/aluminum alloy or carbon fiber ? And why is security always an after thought on products ? Phone security is almost non-existent.

As far as I can tell, this is the iPhone 4T, not the 5. Apple is playing catch-up with every other smart phone maker out there except for Nokia. Hey Apple, give me an iPhone that has a really good battery life, a camera that is better than and Android phone's, upgradable phone memory, good security, and doesn't cost a bazillion dollars, and I would consider getting one. Until then, you're wasting my time with "new and improved" phone announcements.......


My Opinion is it stinks, and I will tell you why. The screen is way out of proportion.

I watched Kelly and Micheal this morning and Micheal showed the phone to Kelly, and she said it looks narrower and longer, which it isn't narrower. Samsung's Galaxy III screen is proportion right.

Doesn't these Corporations, ask the consumer what they want any more, and management just shoves out any thing they want to the public. W.T Grant went out of business and so did Montgomery Ward, by doing this crap. They should satisfy the consumer and not the wants of management. Sears also got in trouble doing that.

No replaceable battery, You are lucky if you get 6 hours out of these cell phones. The Galaxy has very simple replaceable batteries, and cost is around 30 dollars. Also the Galaxy has a added memory slot for up to 32 SD gig.

The Reason Apple doesn't want to do that, is they want to sell you more memory and don't want to lose the repair business to put in a new battery!

When my contract is up with my iPhone 4, I will switch to the Galaxy, cause it has a way bigger screen, and you can add memory, and use extra batteries. Also it feels nice, and still can fit in my shirt pocket.


How is a "new tiny connector", where you would need to shell out $30 to use older gadgets, convenient? And also, it's been 5 years when i owned an iphone for a few months, does it now have widgets for your home screen?


Hokay... Honestly, I'm a little tired of the Gizmag iPhone reviews. This is what, #5? #6? Anyway, a few points amused me too much to pass on commenting:

1) I love that your main pic is the iPhone showing Gizmag advertising the Galaxy SIII. Someone has a clever sense of humor - bravo.

2) I own a Galaxy Nexus. The SIII, Razor MAXX, etc. all annoy me because they come with bloatware. Really? On a phone? No, not okay people, never okay. More options are not always better options, but at least there are a few good ones. I respect Apple for trying to keep it clean, even if I think their maps are probably crummy and I don't like their attitude.

3) Thunderbolt is supposed to be a new standard. USB already won, so it's sort of quaint that apple it trying to push firewire 2.0, but it's a step up from the apple mobile device only connector... and since you're buying an adaptor anyway, why not just switch over to USB like the rest of us? Manufacturers, I'm looking at you (especially you, Sony - WTF?).

4) Flyfish: not sure what you mean, but MY phone has a USB port that can be used for file system access. Also, except for charging, we can do all that on Bluetooth, on pretty much any smart phone. If Verizon stops blocking it and the US gets its act together, we'll also be on NFC for a lot soon too. (Looking forward to the day I can ditch my cards, no thanks to you Apple loyalists.)

Charles Bosse

Hold on partners...let's see what Samsung's new release holds in store. Of course, the processor and memory are only half the story. The other half is the broken promise of the Apple name plate: the democratization of information. No worries though. Looks like Android has that well in hand.


Personally, I'm fed up of being price-gouged by AT&T, I'm still mad that I can't tether, and with suicides/riots at Foxconn, in addition to the anti-competition patent litigation I no longer have any respect for Apple. Goodbye AT&T, goodbye Apple, Hello Verizon, hello Samsung.


@ Erik - if you've never used an iPhone 4 or 4S, then don't bash. I'm an Android user and have friends who have some of the latest Android phones. The iPhone 4 alone makes my Android handset (and most other Anroid handsets) look and feel like a toy from Toys R Us - both the software and hardware experience. So I can't imagine the iPhone5 being an overpriced piece of brick being that the production of the iPhone5 is even more precise. A friend of mine has the Galaxy S3 and its exterior is essentially a shiny piece of plastic that would probably last 4 months without a protective case.

Sambath Pech

Has anybody used the maps? We are in Massachusetts and did a fall drive this weekend with the OIS6 (same as the Iphone5) on a Iphone 4s and it was just fine. The only problems where my Garmin was better were in "dead spots" where the maps couldn't get a signal (it's hilly roads) and the maps dropped out. I never found Google maps to be perfect, with many a bad address, including my own home (Apple had it right). Google is using drive around cars, Apple is using crowd sourced Openmaps.org data so it will perfect itself in a Wiki kind of way over time. What is is about Apple customers that makes them such whiners? Rmember the so called "antennagate" thing with the Iphone 4? Hardly anybody returned their phone, you had to really try to get it to drop out apparently, but what a bunch of howling!


The last iphone I owned was and is lacking something I can not find a way around. the huge cost of that data. That and each message costs a small fortune which is not the case with Blackberry.

I used to love the business focused phones with the proper keyboards. I have huge hands, bigger than 90% of the men I chat to and so teeny tiny phone are not my preference. I also hate touch screen keyboards, the ipad I have is a pain to type on and so I went back to Blackberry when I purchased a new phone.

I like the look of the samsung but would give my left something or other if I could only get a phone that gave me the low cost of ownership of a Blackberry plus the keyboard of my old MDA Pro from HTC and the flip screen ability of that old phone.

Add to that the touch screen features of the new blackberry and that killer app which is the ability to capture peoples BBM code in split seconds...

If I could get all that in ubuntu to match up with my computers eish man I would be happy.....

Another thing holding me back is the slave labour that APPL uses to make thier phones and I can honestly say I am glad I am not an American because those phones are made on the backs of slave in china. Now that the FOXCONN factory is all but shut down because of the inhumane treatment I wonder how long it will be before Apple decided to move the factory to the USA where they actually pay very little tax..... you suckers still buy that phone in droves even though that company does very little to support the country of origin of any of its western designers....

No wonder the USA is bankrupt and in $8trillion debt....


I checked out both the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy IIIS this week at Verizon. My initial impression, just from handling the phones at Verizon, is that the Apple feels heavy and thick like a brick machined from solid granite, complete with sharp edges compared to the organic shaped Samsung which feels much lighter, thinner and devoid of sharp edges. Going back and forth from the Apple to the Samsung, I immediately noticed a very significant difference in screen size. The Apple gives the impression of being smaller in a narrow sense. I own a Motorola DroidX and don't feel any need to rush into either phone, but based on my initial impression from Verizon is that I would chose the Samsung. I'm waiting to see what kind of consensus develops before I make my decision. One thing I know for sure is that Apple left the door wide open for the competition to take market share. The iPhone5 is by no means a slam-dunk winner.

Dana King

First comment sure shaped the rest.

I have an iPhone and I only want to say that their software updates are horrible- especially the latest one.

Study up on what you'll lose- I am not a satisfied user.


I owned a 3G and loved it. I own a 4 and, until the home button stopped working, loved it, because it really was a great leap from the 3G. But the 5 isn't that much of a step (other than speed and a slightly taller screen) above the phone that's two generations behind it. I am going to wait for the Galaxy S4 and the Nokia 920 to make my next phone choice, but will not be considering an iPhone any time in the next two to three years.

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