Week 1 with the iPhone 5

One week of pretty heavy use of my new iPhone 5 later, I find myself just about ready to give this a considered review.

Those with a short attention span can look away now, satisfied that I really, really like the device and am glad I took the plunge and upgraded. Those of you with a need for more detail should simply read on.

The Good

Along with everyone else on the planet who has picked up an iPhone 5, I’m delighted with how light it is.In reality, the iPhone 4S was far from being a brick, but for something with a bigger screen, it’s interesting to find the 5 is so much lighter.

With tech, “lighter” is often interchangeable with “plasticky”, but not in this case. The iPhone 5 exudes quality, from the volume controls to the new lightning dock at the bottom. So it’s a strange mix of solid yet light.

The screen is bright and clear and iOS6 just whizzes along. As it’s impossible to test iOS 5 on an iPhone 5, we’ll just have to put this down to both the improvements in the OS and the fast reprocessing power of the new handset.

Either way, me likey.

The larger screen is noticeable, especially when you place the phone next to a 4S. But for me, at least, this extra screen real estate hasn’t impacted the usability of the phone either way. I don’t notice simply acres of extra space to read emails or whatever. At the same time, it doesn’t make things any more difficult.

Four inches is nice, but I’d have loved something bigger.

(No sniggering at the back).

Mobile phones are, mostly, moving towards larger screens and the various Samsung models are testament to that. I hope Apple keeps this up and comes out with a bigger model down the line. But for now, the new screen is a “good thing”.

I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I’ve noticed an improvement in the quality of sound from the device. And I’m not using the funky new ear phones that came with it. I’m using the same ear buds I used with the last model, and there seems to be better bass, more volume and clarity on podcasts.

Put another way, it’s easier to hear what’s going on when I listen to podcasts on the tube. As I’m pretty much permanently plugged into my iPhone when travelling, this is great.

Finally, the battery seems to both last longer (thank you!) and charge up faster.

The Bad

Let’s get Maps out of the way. I’ve used the hell out it this week, on a business trip to Dublin after some intense testing here in London. In London it’s not too bad. Definitely not as exact and up to date as Google maps, but usable. As soon as I landed in Dublin, I realised I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

Coverage is light and quite inaccurate. It couldn’t find a major business park I needed to get to for a meeting. So as I mentioned yesterday, I won’t be using it again unless it gets a major upgrade. It’s back to Google for me.

iOS 6 is nice. But it’s definitely more of an iteration, not a major update. Yes, there are lots and lots of small improvements, but for the first time I feel Apple is playing catch up with Android on many features.

I’m not going to sing and dance in the streets about my newfound ability to have different signatures for my different email accounts. This should have been built in some time ago.

I was looking forward to using Passbook, but this has been a big let down. Maybe if I was based in the US, more businesses would have been signed up by now and I’d be happily waving my iPhone 5 in the face of airline check-in staff all over the place. Right now, there is a distinct lack of UK-friendly Passbook partners, thought this has the potential to grow with time.

They promo’d the hell out of Starbucks, but it’s not there yet. And I actually use the Starbucks app and maintain a balance on my card. I’d like to see a few more airlines in there, as well as the major chain stores here in the UK (Boots, Tesco, Waitrose, WH Smith etc).

I don’t like there the headphone jack is now located – at the “bottom” of the phone, next to the speaker. When I have earphone plugged in, the cord now interferes with my typing. I’m sure my tweets have become angrier this week as a direct result.

All the same, I’m sure I’ll get used to it.

In Summary…

The iPhone 5 is a great upgrade from the 4S. Now, I was one of the mentalist Apple fanboys who bought direct from Apple and handed over wads of cash for the privilege. Was it worth £699?

(Pick yourself up off the floor)

I’d have to say yes.

My iPhone is rarely out of my hand, whether I’m reading email, managing my schedule, making calls, listening to podcasts or engaging in pointless social networking. It needs to be a solid piece of kit. And the iPhone 5 ticks all the boxes. Whereas the 4S let itself down with poor battery life, so far the 5 excels. Add to that the bigger screen, faster processing and lovelier screen.

As for the price, I’m taking quite the hit, but managed to get £300 for my old iPhone 4S and I’m also selling some old DVD box sets and my Google Nexus 7. I reckon I’ll be about £200 out when all this is taken in account.

All in all, not a bad deal.

Finally, the question of the week as people have asked me about the phone: should I upgrade? If you have an iPhone 4S and you’re nowhere need handset upgrade time, I’d leave it for a while. If you’re ready for an upgrade from your mobile network, and the price isn’t too extortionate (but remember we’re talking about mobile phone companies here!) go for it.

If you’re on an iPhone 4 or earlier, it will be like visiting the future. If you’ve never owned an iPhone, this is the perfect time to join the club.

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