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iPhone 5: Big Whoop

  • Excellent phone, but not ground breaking
  • New A6 processor speeds things up noticeably
  • Stock available
Written by Adam Wajnberg
21/09/2012

Obligatory iPhone 5 review. Short version: If you dig iPhone, you will buy it, and it will be excellent and fantastic. If you don’t, don’t buy it. It is marginally better than the 4S. Optus has the best overall price and plan for metro customers; customers in regional and rural areas will probably have to go with Telstra.

Ok! Now to the details.

Scott

telstra store iphone 5

 

A certain managing director of Compare Broadband, let’s call him Scott K (no…too obvious…we’ll call him S. Kennedy) stopped in at the Camberwell (VIC) Telstra Store on his way in today. Having recently dropped his 3GS one time too many, Scott was in need of a new phone. Not one to fuss about with something new, Scott was getting the new iPhone rather than a cheaper Android superphone like the Samsung GS3 or HTC One X.

On arrival at 9am, Scott found a handful of die-hards in line. One fellow shopper mentioned he’d been  at Victoria Gardens, a shopping complex in Richmond, at 5:30 to be told that the 14 phones in stock had already been sold. That’s right- they opened the store through the wee hours to sell 14 phones.

The Camberwell store had no such problems. Everyone filed in politely, with plenty of friendly staff on hand to fast track a swap of contacts and photos, and a quick activation of the new phone. Scott was 20th in line, but had his phone within 45 minutes.

Adam

Your writer doesn’t have the money to buy the iPhone 5 outright right now, so he’ll hold off despite being a big iPhone fan. Adam will wait 2 or 3 months for Amaysim, his preferred carrier, to get in the necessary nanoSIM and access to Optus’ 4G network (**UPDATE - Amaysim will be offering an interim handcut nanoSIM solution while they wait on their order from the manufacturer. Check out this blog or call 1300 302 942).

Adam stopped in to the Telstra store in Glenferrie Rd at around the same time as Scott did a few km away, and the scene was similarly busy but subdued. The JB Hi-Fi next door had no advertising, but was open an hour early and was quite busy, so one assumes they were also doing signups.

Inside the Telstra store, Adam managed to muscle his way past to a test model. It was nice. Very light, very bright, and very responsive (Adam’s own iPhone 4 has gotten a little choppy and temperamental lately). Adam paired up the iPhone 5 with his Bluetooth headphones, hoping for slightly better audio with the new Bluetooth 4.0 standard. No dice. But it works, and it’s the iOS Adam’s comfortable with. No complaints.

At the Optus Store across the street, Adam noticed a short line of about 10 people, with about three people inside. The Glenferrie Rd Optus store is conspicuously spacious and comfortable, with booths and chairs to sit down during lengthy waits with activations. But with the good weather, Optus seems happy to let in just a handful of people at a time as a way to make things go smoothly. Everyone seemed ok with that.

Test

iphone 5

On arrival, Scott promptly turned the new phone over to Adam for inspection. Adam wanted to check out the vaunted three speaker system. He shot a short video of Scott, which played back with no audio, just a hiss. Uh-oh.

It was the protective sticker, covering up a microphone. Note: peel that off if you don’t want the misery that comes with finding out that your new shiny piece of kit is a dud.

Screen

You really, really barely notice the extra screen real estate. It’s a non issue. The iPhone 4, 4S and 5 all have retina displays, which are just fantastic and don’t need the extra size to deliver a great visual experience.

Design

iphone 5 design

Yeah, no duh. It’s great. Light- actually, maybe a tad too light. But razor thin and perfectly solid. It’s Apple, they know what they’re doing here.

OS

apple maps

iOS 6 might have 200 new features, but its hard to see their impact. Maps is the major change, and it’s not noticeably better or worse than Google Maps, which is still available as a dedicated app for download. Turn-by-turn is nice and clear, but I’m still not sure if it does Audio (couldn’t find in settings). Siri is same old, same old.

Performance

Yep, as advertised, the new iPhone Is FAST. Bloddy fast. Even with several apps open, everything is ridiculously zippy. And that’s no small thing. iOs has always been the smoothest and most pleasant of mobile operating systems; it’s just more so now.

Earpods

iphone 5 earpods

They’re definitely better, but time will tell if they’re as prone to breaking as Apple’s old buds. The remote control is a little easier to use and click now.

Lightning Connector

lightning connector iphone 5

 

Whattreyougonnado, amirite? I agree with Apple that the old connector had to go – as ubiquitous as it is, it left a gaping hole at the bottom of your phone for moisture and dirt to get into. Most of the pins don’t do anything. The connector itself is ok, but you need to put it in the right way, which is difficult in the dark. The new small, ambidextrous connector is good – but c’mon. They could have gone with microUSB.

LTE

Here was the biggest thing, and it had nothing to do with the phone. We ran a speed test.

First on Adam’s iPhone 4, Optus 3G network:

iphone 4 speed test


Then this, on the iPhone 5, with Telstra’s NextG network:

iphone 5 speed test

Yeah, 42 Mbps down, 25 Mbps up. Droolworthy, no doubt. But with only 2GB of data, who cares? It’s the Catch 22 of LG – blistering power, nothing to use it on. Sure pages load faster, but they never taxed a 3Mbps 3G connection very much either.

But still, after years of seeing speed tests max out at 10 or 12 Mbps, even for your average DSL connection, it’s pretty thrilling to see that needle slam to the other side. It won’t last – both Optus and Telstra will see a big influx of users on their 4G networks in the next 12 months, and the speed will come back down to earth.

Scott’s Take

“All told, if I wasn’t already so used to iOS, I’d have gotten the newest Samsung phone”.

Adam’s Take

“It’s a good phone, even if it’s not remarkably different to the iPhone 4S. It’s definitely not worth the money to upgrade off a 4 or 4S if you’re not passionate about it, can’t really afford it or aren’t interested in pushing your phone to its limits. But I’d still call it the best overall phone out there on the operating system alone”.

Conclusion

Overall, the HTC One X, Samsung Galaxy Note, Samsung Galaxy S3 and upcoming Nokia Lumia 920 all look better on paper. The iPhone 5 won’t necessarily win new users; it’ll be an update for already happy iOS users. That will be enough to ensure millions of sales.

But don’t take that as criticism; it’s an excellent phone. It’s just that slowly, and with huge effort, Android has managed to turn a corner where they're the big innovators, while iPhone tinkers away in the garage. They might have some stuff brewing that will knock everyone's socks off, but the iPhone 5 isn't it.

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