Review: iPhone 5 - should I care?

Sim Ahmed gives his verdict on whether the latest Apple iPhone is a game changer

It's that time of year again. Apple has released a new phone and millions of people around the world are looking at their current iPhones with contempt.

The iPhone 5, like every generation of iPhone before it, promises to be a game changer - but before you go ahead and throw away your previous iPhone let's take a look at whether the iPhone 5 really lives up to its claims.

By now you've most likely seen the iPhone on TV, magazines, and plastered all over websites. Placed next to the previous two generations of iPhone it might be possible to not tell the difference between them and the iPhone 5. It's not until you hold the phone in your hand that you can appreciate the differences in design.

Embarassingly the first word I said when I held the iPhone 5 was "wow". I was surprised how light the phone was. At 112 grams it's almost 20 percent lighter than the iPhone 4S.

The back of the iPhone 5 is made of the same aluminium that's used on the bodies of MacBooks, and it's bounded by two glass panels on the top and bottom. This boxed design makes the iPhone 5 look almost unfinished but I was told by an Apple representative that if the entire back was made of aluminium the radio signals for cellular and wi-fi would be disrupted.

I was very disappointed to see that my 'pristine' iPhone 5 had scuff marks and one small knick straight out of the box. This problem was limited to the bevelled edges on the front and back of the phone, and seems to be a common problem if customer complaints online are any indication.

Admittedly these flaws in the metal are minuscule, but when you're paying over $1000 for a phone the expectation of quality is set much higher than what Apple managed to achieve in this instance.

New with the iPhone 5 design is its Lightning power connector, which replaces the decade-old 30-pin connector.

Although this means you'll need to buy new spare cables (or Lightning adapters for your old cables) Apple says chips inside the cable itself dynamically control the power going to your device to better maintain the battery health. The lack of a crevice means the Lightning cable collects less dust and is less likely to become damaged, or damage the iPhone.

It's taken six long years but Apple has finally increased the screen size of the latest iPhone. Four inches might still seem small compared to what's on offer with flagship Android devices, but I found the iPhone 5's display hits the sweet spot in the compromise between screen real-estate and practicality.

All of Apple's apps are supported by the new 640 by 1136 pixel display, but many third-party apps haven't updated to the new specs. These apps can be quickly identified by the black letter boxing used to fill the size difference.

Apple says the iPhone 5's screen has the deepest colour saturation of all its products - side by side with its predecessor, the iPhone 5 definitely wins in terms of colour vibrancy and brightness.

The iPhone 5 is also Apple's first phone with a 16:9 aspect ratio, which means you can finally take advantage of the Retina screen to watch HD video.

When taking video or photos the camera stabilisation feature helps reduce some (but not all) of the shake that comes with using smartphone cameras.

Unfortunately a mysterious purple haze appears in any photos with bright lights towards the edges, which has ruined several photos during my review period. The iPhone 4S had a similar problem, but it was much fainter than with this new device. It's unclear whether it's a fixable software problem, or an issue with the sapphire camera lens or the camera's sensor.

The iPhone 5 sports a dual-core 1.2 Ghz processor, and a separate graphics chip. I wasn't able to pick up any performance improvements with the new A6 processor, and system animations and apps ran with the same level of smoothness as with my iPhone 4S.

Although the iPhone 5 has a larger screen and a slightly faster processor, the battery life has been significantly improved over the iPhone 4S.

A full night's charge was usually enough to get through a work day, so that's around 8 hours of 3G browsing, apps use, and using social networks.

By itself the iPhone 5 is a fantastic device with a market leading display, and a snappy processor. The small knicks on my device and the unexplained purple haze on the camera has sullied my otherwise good experience.

There's not enough here to warrant an expensive upgrade from an iPhone 4S, however for first-time iOS device buyers, or those with iPhone 3Gs then this is one I would recommend.

Specs

Dimensions: 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm

CPU: Dual-core 1.2 Ghz A6, 1 GB RAM

Screen: 640 x 1136 pixels, 4 inches LCD

Storage: 16, 32, 64 GB

Camera: 8 MP with flash

Price: $1049 16 GB, $1199 32 GB, $1349 64 GB

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