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Apple iPhone 5 review

Verdict

A taller screen and a sumptuous redesign for the iconic smartphone, but Apple’s latest iPhone falls tantalisingly short of a place on our A-List

Review Date: 15 Jan 2013

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: £159, on a £31.00 per month, 24 months contract.

Buy it now for: £500
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

UPDATE: Our iPhone 5 review has been updated with a section on the return of Google Maps. Scroll to the end of the review to read more.

It’s now been quite some time since an iPhone last graced the peak of the PC Pro A-List. For almost two years Samsung’s Galaxy handsets have dominated, with the iPhone 4S not doing much to further Apple’s cause. The iPhone 5 attempts to claw back that lost ground with a bigger, higher-resolution screen, an even slimmer profile, and further improvements to performance.

That really is the big news with the iPhone 5, from a hardware perspective at least, and on the whole the changes are successful. As we’ve come to expect from Apple, it’s beautifully made, and the first thing that strikes you is its light weight. It weighs only 112g – lighter than the 4S by 28g, despite the extra height necessary to accommodate the larger 4in display. It also measures an astonishing 7.6mm thick.

This is largely thanks to the loss of the rear glass panel, which is replaced by an aluminium chassis that feels cool and ever-so-slightly rough to the touch.

Apple iPhone 5

We have one key reservation, though, and this concerns the new, so-called Lightning connector, which reduces the old 21.3mm-wide, 30-pin connector to a more compact 8-pin design that’s 11.6mm wide. There’s no speed benefit to this change for iPhone 5 owners – the current Lightning connector is still based on USB 2 – but it renders all your old iPhone accessories instantly obsolete. Although adapter plugs are available from Apple, they’re a steep £25 a throw.

The display

Despite this, the iPhone remains technological jewellery of the finest sort, and the quality of the iPhone 5’s 4in Retina screen is beyond reproach. We measured its maximum brightness at 582cd/m2, a whisker in front of the iPhone 4S at 581cd/m2; deep dark blacks ensure an excellent contrast of 1,058:1. Although taller, the 640 x 1,136 display measures the same across as the 4 and 4S, which means the pixel density remains a gloriously high 326ppi.

Whether the quality is better than the Samsung Galaxy S III’s is a matter of taste, with the Galaxy providing a slightly more saturated look than the iPhone 5’s more muted tones – but for our money, they’re neck and neck; it’s only the Galaxy S III’s extra size that keeps it out front.

Apple iPhone 5

A key point to note here is the aspect ratio of the new display. After years of sticking doggedly to 4:3, Apple has at last gone widescreen.

The new ratio is slightly broader than 16:9, which means you get the full widescreen movie experience with no letterboxing; existing apps will need to be updated to take full advantage, however, with black bars appearing at the top and bottom of the screen in apps not optimised for the iPhone 5.

Camera and calls

Only small improvements have been made to the iPhone 5’s rear camera. Apple has replaced the lens cover with a more scratch-resistant “sapphire crystal” version, and you can now snap stills while recording video, but the resolution for stills remains at 8 megapixels, as does the digitally stabilised 1080p video.

Apple iPhone 5 - camera sample

The iPhone 5 (along with its predecessor the 4S) is still among the best in the business, though, and produces crisp, colourful snaps that are easily a match for those from the Samsung Galaxy S III.

Surprisingly, Apple hasn’t added a burst mode, instead plumping for the introduction of a panorama feature. This allows you to capture broad landscapes with a sweep of the arm, and it’s commendably easy to use.

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