After months of rumour and speculation, Apple’s iPhone 5 is finally here, and as ever, is so popular early buyers are only just receiving their handsets.
The last iPhone’s biggest feature was Siri, Apple’s voice controlled littler helper.
This time the main headline change is a larger screen, a feature already offered by a number of rival handsets running Google’s Android Operating System.
Unlike its rivals, Apple has opted to increase the height of the screen but not the width. Apple says this gives a bigger screen without making it too wide to comfortably hold or reach icons with the thumb of the hand holding the phone.
As someone who has previously complained about too wide handsets, this is a decision I’m pleased with.
So far few apps really benefit from the larger screen, but this will change as developers update them.
At launch the biggest beneficiary of the extra room available is the Safari web browser which can now display even more content, especially in a ‘full screen’ mode which removes all the usual browser icons and address bars.
To accommodate the taller screen, Apple has had to increase the iPhone’s overall height to 123.8mm from the 115.2 of the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. That difference is pretty minimal as holding the iPhone 5 next to its siblings makes clear.
While the overall size isn’t that different, the 5 is noticeably lighter than earlier models, so much so that it’s possible to imagine not realising the phone’s not in your pocket.
Another, and for me, unwelcome change is the relocating of the earphone socket which is now located at the bottom, meaning the phone no longer sits are firmly in your pocket when the headphones are in place.
Apple have also done away with their old Dock Connector cable and replaced it with a new, smaller ‘Lightening’ cable. This means old iPhone accessories, including sound and clock docks, won’t connect and you’ll need a £25 adapter which wont fit all devices and won’t work with others.
It seems penny pinching not to have included the adapter in the box.
All these changes are encompassed in a modified design that swaps the glass back panel for aluminium coated to provide a complementing colour – the choices are Black & Slate or White & Silver.
There are some reports online that the aluminium coating isn’t as durable as it should be but on closer inspection a number seem to involve people deliberately trying to scratch the panel and in my experience so far, the coating seems more than up to the job.
As always, if you’re going to spend £530 on a phone, you need to take some care of it.
Another accessory change worth noting, Apple have made a lot of noise about their new ‘universal fit’ EarPod headphones. I found them no better at fitting my ear than Apple’s previous low-cost models, and no-where near as good as their wallet-crushingly expensive In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic.
As a browse of Apple’s own comparison page shows, beyond the physical changes there’s little that really differentiates the new iPhone from its immediate predecessor when that model is upgraded to iOS6.
That hasn’t prevented millions from upgrading but anyone thinking of renewing a mobile network contract for the latest version might want to pause and ask themselves whether the slight increase in screen size or a reduced weight justifies the cost or committing to a network for another 2 years.
However if you’re someone who genuinely needs faster mobile data speeds and is wedded to Apple thanks to a hefty investment in iTunes content, the new iPhone will work with the UK’s first 4G network, EE.
For many that’ll be enough to upgrade, but overall the reasons to upgrade from the iPhone 4S to the iPhone 5 are no where near as compelling as they were between the iPhone 3Gs and iPhone 4.