Tuesday, November 27, 2012

iPhone 5 - Everything you need to know-4

iPhone 5 review - Performance

iPhone 5 Review - Performance – A6 processor
Apple has upgraded the processor in the iPhone 5 but despite the A6 being an extremely fast chip its capabilities aren’t immediately obvious. This is because the iPhone 4S still feels very fast and capable and there are few apps that really tax even that phone, particularly as Apple’s nice animations that accompany your every move round the interface mean that any delays are cleverly masked. That said, it’s always good to know the extra power is there for the future, plus there are just about enough occasions where the extra speed is noticeable that it seems worthwhile.

Putting the A6 to task with a few benchmarks, it absolutely wipes the floor with all before it, both in CPU tests...

iPhone 5 SunSpider

...and GPU/gaming ones.

iPhone 5 Review -  4G and Call Quality
Another big performance upgrade for the iPhone 5 is its ability to connect to the UK’s EE 4G network. 4G can potentially offer many times the download speed of 3G but with the UK’s network not yet running this isn’t something we were able to test.

Instead we were using a phone on the Vodafone network where we got a perfectly normal 3G speed. We had no issues with signal strength, nor was there a grip of death issue, or at least not one that you should ever encounter. Like the iPhone 4/4S you can short the aerials by spanning the little lines of plastic that split up the metal edges of the phone but here you have to cover all four bits of plastic to cause a problem, and we don’t envisage anyone doing this in normal day to day use.

As for call quality, it seemed very good, with it having improved slightly over the iPhone 4S, a phone that already offered good calling.

iPhone 5 review - Cameras

iPhone 5 Review - Camera
Upon first impression the iPhone 5’s camera doesn’t seem to have had much of an upgrade as it sports the same core specs as the iPhone 4S. It shoots 8MP stills and 1080p video, it has an f2.4 lens and it doesn’t have any extra clever camera tech like the phenomenal image stabilisation of the Nokia Lumia 920. But, as well as managing to make the whole assembly 30 percent slimmer and adding a harder sapphire glass cover Apple has managed to improve overall image quality.

Shooting in as identical situations as possible the iPhone 5 seems to produce crisper, more detailed results than the 4S. Some of this could be down to higher use of a sharpening algorithm but regardless, straight out the camera its shots tend to look better, and the 4S was already the best phone camera on the markets (Nokia 808 PureView notwithstanding).

iPhone 5 4

The difference is less noticeable on video but here the iPhone 5 does have another trick up its sleeve, and it’s one of those real ‘why didn’t they think of that before?’ moments. The second microphone used for noise cancelling when making a call has been positioned alongside the rear camera where it plays double duty for recording audio when shooting video. The result is less chance of muffled or otherwise peculiar sounding audio because of your hand covering the other microphone that sits on the bottom of your phone.

Then of course there’s the Panorama mode. We’ve seen panorama modes on plenty of other devices before but none anywhere near as impressive as Apple has managed here.

iPhone 5 camera sample 1

For a start the process is super easy. You just tap the shutter button and start panning round – the phone will do the rest. It’s not just easy, though, it’s also superb quality. Unlike any other equivalent we’ve seen you get a really high resolution image, and the image processing does an excellent job of smoothing out the image, keeping exposure changes gradual. It can slip up, particularly if you go too fast but for the most part it’s very capable.

iPhone 5 review - What's missing, Price & Verdict

iPhone 5 Review - What’s missing?
So far so good for the iPhone 5 then, right? It has a nicer design and its core internals have had a nice bump in performance. Well, yes, it is a nice device but there are several key features missing.

First up are the familiar iPhone complaints of no expandable storage by way of a microSD slot or such like – you buy a 16GB phone, that’s as much storage as you’ll ever get – and the inability to remove the battery, meaning you can’t keep a spare battery for emergencies or long trips.

Then there are the more modern additions of NFC and wireless charging. The latter is still pretty rare, but we’ve seen a few devices with it now, including the Nokia Lumia 920, and it's certainly something we'd like to see more of. NFC, though, is something we’re really quite miffed not to see included.

Not only is NFC really useful as a way of quickly and easily paying for things by just tapping your phone against the card machine/till (assuming it's contactless payment enabled of course) but it has loads of other cool uses too. You can touch phones together to exchange contact details, instantly pair with a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi device simply by waving them near each other. The list goes on.

Apple has publicly said it simply doesn’t believe NFC is needed right now, and it’s probably right given support is still growing. But, having participated in Visa and Samsung’s contactless payment trial over the summer, paying for goods with a Samsung Galaxy S3, we can definitely say we’re converts of the technology.

iPhone 5 Review - Price
The iPhone 5 is kind of expensive. That’s the short version. The long version is that it’s quite expensive for what you’re getting in terms of features, particularly when bought on a contract.

Bought SIM-free it’s priced reasonably competitively at £529 for the 16GB version, comparing to ~£500 for the 16GB Samsung Galaxy S3 or 32GB HTC One X. However both these alternatives have more features and the S3 can have its storage upgraded to 48GB for the £30 price of a microSD card. In contrast a 32GB iPhone 5 costs £599 and a 64GB model a staggering £699.

If we then look at contract prices things become even grimmer. As we’re testing a phone on a Vodafone SIM, we’ll use its tariffs as an example. For a £33pm, 24 month contract you’re paying £149 up front for the iPhone 5. In contrast you can get the Galaxy S3 for free on the same contract, and it’s a similar story on most tariffs across most networks.

Ultimately, the iPhone 5 is still a bit of a luxury even when compared to its superphone rivals.

iPhone 5 Review - Verdict
Apple has once again blown us away with its latest iPhone, producing a phone that stands head and shoulders above the competition when it comes to industrial design. It’s slimmer, lighter and better looking than before, and yet it packs in a larger screen and faster processor. The new panorama mode on the camera is also superb and the new Earpods are a nice improvement too. If you’re not one for tinkering or chasing the latest technologies, and if you can afford it, the iPhone 5 is the one to get.

That said, with NFC missing, an iffy maps experience, and only minor software additions, its premium price does seem a bit galling. In fact, we’d go so far as to say that unless you only need a 16GB model you’d be mad not to seriously consider the competition.

What’s more, if you are looking for something that pushes boundaries in terms of features you’ll be disappointed. No single hardware or software feature here stands out from the crowd aside from that design. But what a design.

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