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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Apple iPhone 5

There is only one smartphone that can divide friends and family: the Apple iPhone 5.
The Straits Times - September 26, 2012
By: Trevor Tan
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Apple iPhone 5

There is only one smartphone that can divide friends and family: the Apple iPhone 5.

Apple fans probably pre-ordered it when it was made available and some lucky ones are already using it.

Critics deride its lack of innovation, incremental upgrades and consider it inferior compared with the higher specifications of flagship Android smartphones.

Having used it for a week or so, I have no qualms in saying it is the best iPhone so far. It is thinner, lighter and faster than any of its predecessors.

Scoff if you will, but you just need to hold it to appreciate its exquisite feel and silky smoothness. Having a competitor's smartphone in one hand and the iPhone 5 in the other is akin to the difference between a cheap plastic watch and a Swiss-made timepiece.

The anodised aluminium back, especially the black-and-slate version, was barely scratched despite being in close proximity to my bunch of keys. However, some users have reported that their sets do scuff.

Apple has found a display sweet spot by enlarging the display to 4 inches and thinning it to a mere 7.6mm at the same time.

Your thumb can easily move from the top of the display to the home button below the display by holding the phone with one hand.

The Retina display remains sharp with the same pixel density as that in the iPhone 4S. The extra pixels and extended height allow for an extra row of apps to be displayed and a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. You can also see more when viewing widescreen high-definition videos.

Apps yet to capitalise on the new screen will be flanked by two unobtrusive black bars. This is probably why Apple refrained from stretching the display beyond the 4-inch screen.

The camera has the same 8-megapixel count as with the iPhone 4S, yet it feels as though it focuses and captures images faster, having used it side by side with an iPhone 4S loaded with the latest iOS 6.0. Images shot with the newer phone looked more vivid and showed more contrast.

While many Android smartphones already boast the panorama mode, iPhone 5's algorithm seems to be better in stitching up the images. Still, you do need to keep your hand steady and pan slowly in order to achieve the perfect panorama.

The 1,080p videos captured with it look equally sharp and vibrant. You can also now take a picture during video capture.

The much-maligned earphones that come with all iPods and iPhones finally get an upgrade. The new EarPods, with their "eargonomic" design, fit much better and provide audio quality with a punchier bass and more detailed mid-range.

Another seismic change: Apple has discarded the nine-year-old 30-pin connector for a 9-pin, 8-signal connector it calls Lightning. Despite being 80 per cent smaller, it feels sturdy and you can plug it in on either side, unlike the old connector.

While I like the Lightning connector, I can't help but bemoan the fact that I cannot use my iPod universal dock any more. Even with the Lightning on a 30-pin adapter ($42, available next month), I doubt I can mount the iPhone 5 on the dock without it falling.

Apple has also shrunk the SIM cards, going from micro to nano. Nano-SIMs will be the next in thing once the initial inconvenience has been forgotten and adopted by other smartphone manufacturers for phones with thinner designs.

Performance-wise, the iPhone 5 yielded a score of 1,637 in the Geekbench benchmark test. The benchmark test also indicated that the phone is actually running on a 1GHz ARMv7 dual-core processor with 1GB of physical memory.

By comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S III, with its ARMv7 1.8GHz quad-core processor, has an average score of about 1,800. However, some S IIIs scored as high as 2,433.

Starting up the Infinity Blade II game on the iPhone 5 took only 20 seconds, while the iPhone 4S took around 42 seconds. The downside of the improved speed is the aluminium back heats up a little when playing games or running processing-intensive apps, such as Maps.

With daily use of the iPhone 5, I found the battery dropping down to around 47 per cent at the end of a working day with frequent checking of e-mail messages, Facebook status and messaging along with periodic phone calls.

In our intensive battery test where we looped a 720p video with Wi-Fi on and in full brightness, it managed an impressive 6.5 hours before the battery went flat.

Phone calls were clear with the other party reporting minimal ambient noise. There were no significant signal drops whichever way I held the phone. For iPhone 5's 4G LTE performance in Singapore, read our test on the right.

In addition, you can now use Apple's FaceTime or video chat feature over cellular network.

During our trial, it was patchy and not as smooth as when on Wi-Fi. This may not be a good idea anyway given the lower mobile data limit with the new 4G plans.

* The Apple iPhone 5 is the best iPhone so far, and nothing in the market beats it in terms of an integrated app ecosystem and seamless user experience.

TECH SPECS

Price: $948 (16GB), $1,088 (32GB), $1,238 (64GB)

Operating system: iOS 6

Processor: A6 chip

Display: 4-inch Retina Display; 1,136 x 640 pixels

Camera: 8-megapixel rear camera, 1.2-megapixel front facing camera

RATING

Features - 5/5

Design - 5/5

Performance - 5/5

Value for money - 4/5

Battery life - 3/5

Overall - 4/5

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