Apple iPhone 5 review: Laws of attraction

GSMArena team, 28 September 2012.
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Tags: Apple, iOS, Touch UI

Final words

There are many sides to the Apple iPhone 5's story. You can, for example, look at the progress it makes and compare it to the last major Apple release, the iPhone 4. That one was truly revolutionary - or, as the saying went back then, resolutionary. It had the most impressive screen on the market, a camera that few could beat, an incredibly attractive design, and processing power that equaled the most impressive droids at the time.

In comparison, the iPhone 5 brings a modest screen update, which is nowhere near as impressive as a four-fold increase in resolution brought by the iPhone 4. The performance of the camera is basically identical to the one on the 4S, and while the phone looks nothing short of stunning, the finish threatens to deteriorate quite quickly if not looked after. Not to mention that it just lacks the wow factor of the iPhone 4.

All we're left with is a surprisingly solid chipset - and we mean a surprise that most quad-cores will hardly call pleasant. But at the end of the day, Apple has failed to live up to its own upgrade standard set with the iPhone 4. What we mean is the iPhone 4S could get away with many things but not the iPhone 5 - not a second year in a row.

Yes, another side to the story is the upgrader's dilemma. So you have an iPhone already and you love it, but you are looking for ways to take that iOS experience a step further. Is the iPhone 5 the device you were hoping to get?

If you own the iPhone 4, then probably yes. At this point your home-button is probably starting to give up on you (those are known not to age well), you are looking to get some extra speed and a little extra screen estate, without writing off the investments you made in apps and the iPhone 5 delivers that easily. True, the screen could have grown a little more and the anodized aluminum case could have been more durable, but the latest iPhone is still a worthy upgrade. And a real no-brainer if you own one of the older generations of the Apple smartphones.

Apple iPhone 4
Apple iPhone 4

Things are far less straightforward if you have the iPhone 4S, though. Sure, the iPhone 5 is faster and slimmer, but is that enough to warrant the pricey upgrade? Given that the 3.5" screen is so easy to manage with one hand, you probably won't really feel much difference from the slimmer waistline. The camera is the same and the pixel density has no room for improvement, so all you'll be getting is more speed (to what's by no means a slow device) and some extra height to the screen.

Apple iPhone 4S
Apple iPhone 4S

Turn another page and you see the iPhone 5 right in the middle of a heated smartphone battle. The Android open-source army is as strong as ever, while Windows Phone 8 has finally emerged as a real alternative for those, who don't mind a closed ecosystem such as Apple's.

The new Apple has a couple of strong arguments in its favor. Firstly, the A6 chipset is one of the snappiest around and is ready to face anything you throw at it. It may not win every fight, but it will never suffer humiliating defeats either. Secondly, the iPhone 5 is arguably the best looking of all the smartphones around. That weapon would have been even more potent, had it not been for the aluminum finish quality issues.

However, the iPhone 5 was let down by what has been the lineup's greatest strength thus far. We are talking the iOS 6 operating system, which seems to be falling behind the curve. After the fiasco with the new Apple Maps some are even saying that iOS 6 is a step backwards from iOS 5. Now, we wouldn't go that far as the new OS release teaches the iPhone family plenty of new tricks, but we can't overlook the fact either that while Android finally caught up in terms of fluidity and smoothness, iOS is yet to match the functionality of its competitors.

That's why the Galaxy S III and the HTC One X will sleep well, knowing very few (if any) of their owners will be tempted to jump ship. The LG Optimus G will also be glad to know that it's entering a game with a very open end, rather than being brought to the slaughter.

Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III HTC One X LG Optimus G E973
Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III • HTC One X • LG Optimus G E973

The Nokia Lumias and the HTC Windows Phones will also probably find reasons to cheer in the fact that they are finally ready to trade blows with the iPhone, instead of taking the punching bag role of their predecessors. Even though the Microsoft platform still has a long way to go to match the two industry heavyweights, it now has more trumps in its hand than just the bargain price.

Nokia Lumia 920 HTC Windows Phone 8X
Nokia Lumia 920 • HTC Windows Phone 8X

The great news for Apple is that the closed ecosystem is yet again working in their favor. We wouldn't want to underplay the loyalty of Apple fans but a commitment like that is hard to back out of for purely financial reasons too. iPhone users can be anything from pleased, faithful and devoted, to addicted, but a tiny bit of that involves protecting their investment in apps, services and interconnected Apple devices.

Furthermore, if you are only now looking to join the Apple family, you don't need to look any further than the latest. The price difference is negligible between an iPhone 5 and a brand new 4S.

In conclusion, the Apple iPhone 5 is a very solid effort, a purchase which few are likely to regret. However, it fails to be one of the revolutionary products its maker is known for.

We are not sure if it's due to complacency or the innovation well has simply dried up, but Apple has let competition catch up and even take the lead second year in a row. Had the iPhone 5 come out last year, when everyone was expecting it, it would have been a trend-setter, but now it seems to be relegated to a follower and the worst part is the pricing department didn't even get the memo. Off contract, it's probably the most expensive smartphone in Europe.

Then again, the momentum gained will certainly help mask some of the iPhone 5 weaknesses and the unprecedentedly loyal user base will make the smartphone a success, in the profit game. And that's the only game big companies play, anyway. So, those maps will eventually get fixed and Apple will pat themselves on the back for a job well done. A nine-to-five job though, not the inspired and visionary piece of work we all know this company can deliver.

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