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Hands on with the iPhone 5

Macworld staff | Sept. 24, 2012
The iPhone 5s have landed in our offices. Before we go off for more extensive examinations, here are a few preliminary reactions after getting our hands on the thing.

The iPhone 5s have landed in our offices. Before we go off for more extensive examinations, here are a few preliminary reactions after getting our hands on the thing.

The screen

Because the iPhone 5 is the same width as previous models, it feels familiar in some ways. But then, when you reach up for that topmost corner to hit a Back button or to pull down Notification Center, there's a strange sense of wearing shoes that are just slightly too big. By the same token, going back to an iPhone

Making the screen taller, but not wider, is actually kind of brilliant. What do we do with our phones? Read emails, webpages, Twitter streams, and so on. Now there's more room for all of that, without stretching things to wacky proportions.

Apps that have already been optimized for the larger display--such as Apple's own apps--certainly feel roomier for it. It's exactly what you'd expect, and it's nice. Apps that have not yet been updated feel funny: There are black bars at the top and the bottom. Even on one of the white models, though, it's easy to forget the bars are there: they blend in with the dark screen.

What's strange, though, is what happens to the iPhone's status bar in these apps. In most apps, the status bar is immediately above the app itself, and then there was black space above it. But in one app we tested, the status bar was at the very top of the screen, then there was some black space, and then the contents of the app were displayed. Turns out this is what happens when some parts of an app have been updated for the iPhone 5, but not others. If an app hasn't been updated at all, the status bar sticks to the app and the black bars extend above. The worst case scenario is that developers will just stretch their apps up-and-down; there's plenty of space to really retool their interfaces, if they wanted to do so.

If you painstakingly organized your home screens, it's time to redecorate. Now that you can fit a fifth row of apps on your iPhone 5, you'll need to make new decisions about which apps go where. Or, we suppose, you could leave everything exactly the same and have a gaping empty row across the bottom of each screen.

The body

While the iPhone 5 is noticeably taller, the change is actually less dramatic than you might expect. If you regularly clad your iPhone in a battery case, for example, the caseless iPhone 5 may well be shorter than what you're accustomed to.

The height difference is also a personal thing: If you're accustomed to sliding up a finger to trigger the Sleep/Wake button, that may now take more effort than it did before; you may have to slide the phone down in your hand to access that button, whereas before it was always within reach. The Notification Center can be a real stretch.

 

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