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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.

As we've all heard, the iPhone 5 is as surprisingly light (3.95 ounces). There may be no such thing as too light, but some may find that it feels like a toy: it's surprising, when you turn the iPhone 5 on, to realize that a device this light is actually a real phone, and not just a plastic replica that you give your kids to play with. For years, there's been a notable difference between the weight of iPhones to their comparable iPod touches; the difference between the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5 feels that dramatic.

The case

As opposed to the iPhone 4 and 4S, which had a kind of "ice-cream sandwich" construction, with two slabs of glass around a steel frame, the iPhone 5 has edges that are ever so slightly beveled inward--chamfers, if you want to use the technical term. It gives the phone a slightly different feel in the hand, one that doesn't press quite as sharply into the palm as the previous phones.

In the past, iPhone color choices have been pretty limited: The iPhone 3G either had a black back or a white back, but that was it. The iPhone 4 came in black and (eventually) white, front and back, but the shiny metal band around the device was the same regardless of color choice.

With the iPhone 5, the two phones really are different. The white model most closely resembles the iPhone 4/4S, with a white front and back and the silver metal band. But the black model is completely different. It's like the Spinal Tap model iPhone 5: How much blacker could it be? None more black. The front and back have black glass, yes, but the metal band and metal strip on the back are both "slate"--a metallic matte black. The switches are black. Even the box is black, with "iPhone 5" printed in shiny black lettering. If the white-and-silver iPhone 5 is Gandalf's iPhone, the black-and-slate model is Darth Vader's.

And it's gorgeous. Not everyone will want to embrace the Dark Side, but the black metal on the black glass really ties the design of the phone together in a way that the iPhone 4 didn't.

That connector

The first thing some of us did when our new iPhones arrived was try to plug it into our Macs using an existing dock connector cable. It only took a second for us to realize, "Hey, dummy, that won't work!" and dig out the Lightning adapter in the box instead. We're not the only ones who will do that, we bet.

You might also pause to see if you have the Lightning plug oriented the right way, just as we did with the old connector. Which, of course, you don't need to do: it works either way. (Some of us plugged and unplugged the connector a couple of times, just for the novelty of it.) We never paid much attention to where we put our iPhone cables: We always had a couple stashed here and there around the house. You'll likely have just one Lightning cable for the time being; watch it closely.

 

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