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iPhone 5 First Impressions

Entry 1445, on 2012-09-30 at 17:33:43 (Rating 2, Computers)

The latest iPhone seems to have gained mixed initial reviews. While the overall tone has been very positive there have been a couple of issues which have in some ways diminished the overall experience. First there is the Maps app which has received some quite justified criticism. Then there are a few other minor issues such as light leaks and scratches which would probably not even be mentioned on any other phone, where the expected level of perfection is a bit less.

I was in line on the day the phone was released here in New Zealand so I was one of the first to get one. This is not a cheap phone at over $1200 (for the 64G model subsidised on a plan) so is it worth it? I have used it extensively since I bought it three days ago so I think I can present some initial thoughts. First, I have to say this is my third iPhone and replaces an iPhone 4 which in turn replaced a 3G. I am a dedicated Apple user so I am biased although I do occasionally use Windows PCs and Android phones in my job.

Anyway, here are my thoughts so far...

First, this phone feels perfect in your hand. It is very light and very thin and the screen size is just about right. Some people think that bigger phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy, are better but I disagree. There is an optimal size for portability and usability and I think the iPhone is just about perfect. Clearly some people might prefer slightly bigger or smaller screens but remember that it's easier to make a big phone than a small one and there are very good reasons Apple have kept the size down.

Speed is really impressive. Compared with the iPhone 4, apps just launch super fast, animations and scrolling never stutter, and the overall feel is really snappy. The processor still has just 2 cores but they are very fast and the 3 graphics cores also help a lot. And having a full 1G of RAM no doubt helps the general performance too.

The screen is very good. The resolution, brightness, saturation and colour accuracy are excellent although there is still the classic touch-screen problem of reflections. When you look at the display it looks real - it's hard to believe that you are looking at a screen. About half of my programs use the bigger screen and the rest just have black bars a the top and bottom, but hopefully all the apps I use will be updated soon.

The camera is far better than the one in the iPhone 4. I am quite impressed with the sharpness and low noise of the images that the rear 8 megapixel camera captures. The panorama mode is very easy to use and does a really good job of creating a complete seamless image, although there are inevitably some weird distortions when producing panorama photos of enclosed spaces like a room.

The new Apple earbuds work really well for me. They sound good, with much more solid bass than the older models, and they fit fairly comfortably. I have stopped using my moderately expensive Sennheiser phones because the Apple ones actually work better!

I have used Siri (voice control) a bit and it works well most of the time. There is no setting for a New Zealand accent so occasionally the system has problems, especially with the NZ pronunciation of "i" (apparently we really do say "i" more like "u" than "e"!) I am using the British accent which seems to work better for me than Australian or US. It will be interesting to see if I use this function much in the future but it has a lot of potential.

Apple should have released the Maps app as a beta and kept the old Google-based Maps app for a while. In some areas the new app is awesome but sometimes you get into areas where the satellite maps are poor, plus there are many errors. Building a service like this from nothing is a huge job and I can see that this will be great when it's done, but it's not so good just now!

Other minor criticisms I have seen on the internet haven't affected me. I see no light leakage, I have no scratches (I don't use a case or screen protector), and the camera has produced no weird purple tint for me. There will always be a small percentage of any new device with problems and people do have far higher expectations of Apple than other brands (and quite rightly too because Apple is a premium brand) so I think if similar issues occurred in other devices they wouldn't even be mentioned.

So in summary, after a few days I just love the iPhone 5. Not only is it the coolest phone on the planet, it is the coolest device of any type.


Comment 1 (3345) by OJB on 2012-10-06 at 19:33:12:

Wow, Siri really works. I have used it a bit recently, including in this instance: I was sitting in the dining room and remembered I have to contact a client about a project I was working on. I activated Siri and said "Take a note", and then spoke the note. By the time I got to my computer (5 seconds later) the note has been synced through iCloud. Apple technology works! And the different components work together!


Comment 2 (3346) by OJB on 2012-10-07 at 14:02:34:

I did some photo tests today and I am also very impressed with the camera. Obviously it's not as good as my SLR but it is as good as many compact cameras. The detail is impressive and noise in low light is better than any other phone camera I have used. Also, even in really high contrast situations (full sun reflecting off polished car metal) I see no purple lens flare as some people have reported.


Comment 3 (3350) by SBFL on 2012-10-13 at 13:36:47:

Any NFC? Err, no. Business sector is not interested.


Comment 4 (3352) by OJB on 2012-10-13 at 16:56:58:

I don't know what I would do with NFC even if I had it. Where can it be used? Maybe it will be there in future iPhones (yes, I know it's in other phones already) if it takes off - that is far from certain. What has this got to do with the business sector? I don't quite see what you're saying there.


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