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Review: Apple's iPhone 5 destined for success

Michael deAgonia | Sept. 25, 2012
With the iPhone 5, Apple has again delivered something worthy of the iconic iPhone name and legacy, says columnist Michael deAgonia.

Unfortunately for me, my iPhone never got around to activating. It took two phone calls with two separate reps at AT&T -- and a whole lot of waiting for nothing -- until I was finally able to speak to someone who could help me. The first time I was told by an affable yet clueless rep that the only way to activate the phone is through a sync with iTunes (not true). His help involved reading aloud from sheets of notes in front of him, which offered intricate instructions on the precise way to plug in the iPhone cable to a computer and launch iTunes. When the iTunes restore failed (surprise!) to activate the phone, I called again.

During the second call, I was connected to someone who was familiar with the problem; she took my IMEI and ICCID numbers and plugged them into her system. A minute later, my old iPhone 4S could no longer make calls, but my iPhone 5 could. (I got the official notice that my iPhone 5 had been activated about 8:30 a.m. Saturday.)

Performance

The iPhone's display dominates the front of the device, just as it did in previous models. The main difference this year is that the screen has been stretched from 3.5 inches to 4 inches (1136 x 640 pixels, yielding a 326ppi display). Essentially, Apple made the iPhone taller without making it wider, allowing the engineering team to spread out the internal components a bit more. The new iPhone is 18% thinner and 20% lighter than the 4S.

Other design decisions contributed to the thinner/lighter equation, including a redesigned nano-SIM card, a single LTE chip for voice and data, the much smaller Dock connector, and the first Retina display with integrated multitouch tech.

Despite those changes, the new design does not sacrifice power. In fact, the iPhone 5 -- using Apple's own custom A6 chipset -- literally doubles the performance of the 4S, and tops the chart as the fastest smartphone on the market today.

The speed is noticeable right away, as the iPhone 5 boots much faster than previous models. Navigating the interface is much smoother, especially since certain screens -- such as those displaying long lists -- don't take nearly as long to load. It's not that the 4S was slow, but there were times the flow of navigation became disrupted by slow window content load times. I haven't seen that issue here. You'll note the biggest performance gain in apps and games, or when using processor-intensive apps, like rendering videos in iMovie. Even Web browsing in Safari is faster. The iPhone 5 blows away the iPhone 4S.

Where does that leave battery life? Apple says you should get eight to 10 hours of real-world use, and up to 225 hours of idle time. I've not been able to extensively test these claims, but, so far, battery life doesn't seem any worse than the iPhone 4S. Given the performance boost, that's impressive.

 

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