Apple iPhone 5 review: Laws of attraction

GSMArena team, 28 September 2012.

Tags: Apple, iOS, Touch UI

Connectivity improves, still not perfect

The Apple iPhone 5 brings some key updates to the connectivity package over the iPhone 4S. It comes in three different network options - a quad-band GSM with LTE (bands 4 and 17), quad-band GSM with LTE (bands 1, 3 and 5) and a CDMA version with LTE (bands 1, 3, 5, 13 and 25). If you want to know which version supports the LTE network of your carrier you should check this table.

Wi-Fi a support has been added (meaning you can now work on a/b/g/n networks) and the iPhone 5 is the first member of the iOS family to feature dual-band Wi-Fi (e.g. 2.4 GHz as well as 5 GHz). Tethering is supported, too, although it's up to your carrier if you'll be able to use it.

There's Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP support, but that's hardly any good for data transfers. We've since long given up hope that Apple will enable sending and receiving files on iOS devices through Bluetooth, but as cloud storage solutions improve we no longer even missing it too much.

A big part of the iPhone 5's improved connectivity is the new Lightning connector, which we already discussed.

Finally the iPhone 5 offers A-GPS and GLONASS support, just like its predecessor. The smartphone is impressively quick in getting satellite lock, taking just a few seconds on most occasions.

As for what's missing - well, the first thing that comes to mind is NFC. We really expected the iPhone 5 to feature it, after Passbook was announced, but it doesn't. Also Wi-Fi Plus Cellular has been sacked from the final version of iOS 6. It made simultaneous use of Wi-Fi and cellular in cases when your WLAN speeds were poor, combining both services for optimal browsing speed.

We never really expect to see either Mass Storage mode or expandable external storage on the iPhone 5, but that doesn't mean we are ready to forgive Apple for not including them.

Safari goes full-screen

Another place where the bigger screen on the iPhone 5 really steps into the highlight is the Safari web browser. You get more content per page and the benefits are especially felt in landscape mode using the new fullscreen feature.

For starters there's iCloud tab syncing, a new full-screen mode in landscape and page loading seems overall faster than before.

The user interface of Safari hasn't really changed and what we still miss is a unified address/search bar like on the desktop Safari.

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Safari

iCloud tab syncing is enabled, along with offline reading. You can also share pages on Twitter and Facebook.

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Sharing pages

The new full-screen mode is available only in landscape, which makes sense. It would have been better if Apple had found a simpler way of activating it, like a double tap or pinch gesture but the dedicated virtual button still does a fine job.

Once in full-screen mode, you get a shortcut, which reveals three onscreen buttons: Back, Forward and Exit Full-screen.

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The new full-screen mode

You can also bookmark pages to the Reading List to view offline.

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Reading List

If a page is compatible with the Reader (most of the article pages out there are) you get a Reader button right into the address bar as soon as the page loads. The Reader strips the webpage of ads and makes the layout and fontsize more suited to the smaller phone screen. And best of all, if you are reading a multi-page article (such as one of our reviews) getting from one page to the next is automatic as soon as you scroll to the bottom of the page rendered by the Reader.

You can set the font size via two controls at the top, and also there's a built-in dictionary to look up unknown words.

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Reader in action

All iGadgets have a Private Browsing option in the Safari settings (Settings->Safari). If you turn it on, nothing you do in the bowser will leave a trail on your phone - no browsing history, no search history, no usernames or passwords, etc. The only thing nicer than Private Browsing itself would have been a dedicated key within the Safari UI, instead of a lonely toggle in the Settings menu.

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Safari settings

In the advanced settings you can find very detailed web browsing data and delete all of it or some specific site-related data only (such as Google Search).

In iOS 6, Apple decided to change the way your browser displays network and page loading errors. Instead of the previous countless pop ups that annoyed the living hell out of users Safari now just displays a "cannot open the page..." screen - clean and simple.

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New "Cannot Open..." view

Multilingual Siri knows more

Siri is available on the iPad 3 and iPhone 4S but the iPhone 5 has a slight advantage. The third microphone, which Apple have added is especially useful when using Siri, because you no longer have to tilt the device to reach the bottom mic and instead, you can just talk naturally into the earpiece above the display.

Siri speaks new languages now: Canadian English and French, Spanish, Italian, the varieties of German, Italian and French spoken in Switzerland, Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese. These are also supported in the satnav app.

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Siri with new supported languages

Support for POI search is supposed to get wider. Assistance with restaurant booking is part of Siri's new set of skills. It will find you exactly the restaurant you are looking for and filter the results based on user reviews. You can run impressively detailed searches based on food type, location, outdoor, pool, price range, ratings, etc. This feature is not available in every country, though.

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Finding POIs

One of the much-touted features is Siri's new-found flair for sports. It can answer lots of questions and isn't limited to game scores. History, stats, player bios, player comparison, teams, records, etc. Siri should be able to return most of the info right onto its own screen, without switching over to the browser.

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Sports statistics and scores by Siri

The same applies to movies. You will get all of your movie-related answers right inside the Siri window - anything about actors, directors, awards, movie stats, premieres and tickets, reviews, trailers, etc.

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Theaters • Movies • Reviews • Schedules

The other new thing Siri can do is launch apps. Yes, it does look like one of those features that should have been there from the beginning, but better late than never, right? You can also have Siri update your Facebook and Twitter.

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Launching apps • Updating status • Sending tweet

Apple announced they're working with various car manufacturers - BMW, GM, Mercedes, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, Chrysler, Honda and others - to integrate Siri tightly with the car's audio systems.

The Facebook integration comes a year too late

Facebook is tightly integrated with the iOS. It even goes deeper than Twitter did in iOS 5.

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Facebook inside iOS 6

We already pointed out that Siri can do your status updates for you. There are dedicated shortcuts for Facebook and Twitter updates in the Notification center as well.

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Siri updating Facebook

This is just the beginning though. Just like in Android you can sync your Facebook contacts with the phonebook. If you do, the system will search email and phone numbers, so it can link your contacts with their Facebook profiles.

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Contacts with Facebook data

Upon a successful Facebook link, the contact's picture, addresses, important dates, emails, phone numbers and websites will be updated. You will also get a new Facebook field with a shortcut to the contact's Facebook profile. It will load in the Safari browser however, not the dedicated Facebook app.

Unfortunately, the Facebook albums and feeds do not appear in the phonebook. All Facebook events will appear in the Calendar though.

You can share photos on Facebook right inside the Photo app. Addresses can be shared as well upon a drop of a pin in Maps.

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Uploading picture • Sharing address

Facebook integration extends to the App Store and the iTunes Store. Whenever you tap on an app, song, movie, TV show, etc. you'll get into the new store UI where there are three tabs - info, reviews and related. In review you can Like the app/song/…/movie on Facebook and write or read Facebook reviews.

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Facebook reviews and Like inside App and iTunes stores

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