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Review: Apple iPhone 5
What is it?
The latest iPhone, sleeker and more gorgeous than photos would have you believe
Fast processor, stunning design, improved screen and fast wireless connectivity
The new Lightning connector will disappoint many with speaker docks tailored for the 30-pin version
The bottom line:
Another spectacular iPhone, this time with a glorious screen size improvement, speed boost and 4G - if you're on the right network
The new iPhone is called the iPhone 5 (though it's actually the sixth generation - never mind). It looks very familiar, taking the design language of the iPhone 4S and elongating it. The display is now 4ins instead of 3.5ins, though it's no wider, just longer.
This makes it ideal for video playback as it's pretty much a 16:9 ratio display. And a new technology has brought the screen image closer to your fingers: it looks like it's about to burst out of the display. More than that, a huge increase in colour saturation means this display looks amazingly bright and vivid. It's hard to overstate how much of a difference this colour boost makes, whether you're comparing it to last year's iPhone or looking at it on its own.
The extra height means there's room for a whole extra row of app icons, and some of Apple's own apps have already been recoded to fill the screen fully. The weather app has an extra level of information, showing sunshine (or its absence) hour by hour as well as for the day.
Of course, most app developers are scrambling to catch up with the requirements of the new screen, so for now those apps just run as they did before, which means there are black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. This is a shame, though in fact I found that I forgot to notice this very quickly as I became immersed in the game I was playing, say.
The bigger screen means more pixels to be manipulated, so it's good that there's a new processor in the iPhone 5. The A6 chip promises double the speeds of the already-quite-nippy A5 and there was certainly no discernible dawdling, whatever task you give the phone.
There are numerous improvements in the software, and iPhone 4S users will be glad to hear they're all available to them as well, once they've downloaded the just-available iOS 6 update. But the A6 chip means the new phone does it all quicker.
Key to the software improvements are items like Maps. No more Google mapping, the new ones Apple is using are elegant and neat-looking. There's a great, gorgeous feature called Flyover with 3D renderings of buildings that look almost real - though this is currently restricted to the centre of a few dozen cities. It looks great, though.
And Siri, the voice-recognition program, has been much improved with UK local searches (finally!) and impressive levels of sports and movie information.
This is the first 4G LTE iPhone - and the first 4G phone from any brand to launch in the UK. But the frequency issues (there are over three dozen LTE frequencies to choose from) mean that it'll be compatible with the 1800MHz band offered by EE, parent company to Orange and T-Mobile but not for Vodafone or O2. Three customers will be able to access 4G on the 1800MHz bandwidth because the company bought some from EE, but it won't be active for almost a year yet.
Never mind, the improved speeds on 3G that this iPhone can manage are noticeably faster than before, even if they don't match the giddy heights of 4G. In tests, the iPhone 5 was noticeably faster than previous iPhones on 3G connection.
Battery life was also marginally stronger on this phone, which is impressive given the bigger screen. Of course, 4G may bring this down as it's known for killing batteries. Apple says it'll be about the same. Time will tell.
Overall, this is a huge improvement over last year's already excellent iPhone 4S.
Each year, Apple brings out the best iPhone yet, and that's what this is. But more than that, it's one of the most beautiful, usable smartphones ever. And while some rivals are nipping at Apple's heels for good looks and even overtaking the company for some innovations, this remains the smartphone of choice. The App Store is the most-stocked. The interface, though ageing remains superlatively usable. And the hardware is gorgeous.
In Pictures: Apple iPhone 5 hands-on