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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.

The 4-in. screen displays well-saturated colors. Here, the iPhone 5 is running iMovie in landscape mode.

The display

I have a friend, bless his heart, who judges every phone's worth by the size of its display. Now that Apple has adopted a longer screen that shows more information, I can understand his perspective -- to a point. The new iPhone's larger screen is a compromise between viewable space and the ability to slide the device in and out of pockets, without sacrificing one-handed navigation of the screen. It's a design tradeoff, and I like the results. Seeing more information on a device that still comfortably fits in your pocket is the best of both worlds.

Even better, the larger display, when set at the same brightness as the 4S, shows deeper blacks and more vivid colors without over-saturating an image.

List-based apps -- like Settings or Facebook -- benefit because you can see more on-screen without scrolling, but other apps benefit, too. The Camera app has a larger shutter button, the Weather app displays an hourly forecast that can be swiped through, and options that were once hidden in Music player are now displayed without a tap.

Apps that haven't been rewritten for the larger screen definitely feel odd, as they are centered and framed by black bars at the top and bottom. Although they're shown in full resolution, the effect is noticeable -- especially with apps that require typing. In these apps, the keypad doesn't slide up from the bottom of the screen, where your thumbs would be. It slides out from the black bars that keep the app centered, forcing you to shift your grip to type. It's minor, but still gives you pause. For iPhone 5 users, this will be the new normal until developers rewrite their apps.

Not surprisingly, the display on this model is still prone to glare, reflections and fingerprints.

A new camera system

The camera system gets its own set of improvements. The rear camera is still an 8-megapixel, 1080p-video-capable design, but it's 20% smaller than previous models and sports a few cool upgrades: better image stability when shooting video, a dynamic low-light mode for better shots in the dark, support for iOS 6's built-in Panorama mode, and the ability to take still photos as you shoot video.

The front-facing camera has been bumped to 720p resolution, which should give higher quality self-portraits and Facetime video chats.

One caveat with the option allowing you to snap images while recording video: the still images are simply screen captures of the video itself, so don't expect those photos to be of the same quality as when you use the standalone camera function.

 

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