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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.

Sounding off on sound

The built-in speaker sounds better than any other iPhone; more volume, while still sounding crisp and clear. Side by side with an iPhone 4S, the iPhone 5 drowns out the sound from its predecessor.This is the first iPhone where I don't feel the need to cup the speaker with one hand in an effort to direct the sound towards me; the improvement is easy to discern.

The iPhone 5's headphone jack has been moved to the bottom of the phone.

I like the relocated headphone jack at bottom of the iPhone, which similar to the iPod touch. However, I'm right-handed, and I could see how someone who's left handed might be annoyed by the new positioning.

Audio is also picked up really well. There are now three microphones used for noise canceling, and one of them is located on the rear of the iPhone. That makes a big difference when recording video. The microphones are also used by Siri, Apple's voice-activated "personal assistant."

By far the best addition, though, is Apple's upgraded headphones, now called EarPods. The new are designed so they should better stay in your ears, and they produce richer and fuller sound. In fact, the sound is improved to the point I'm surprised that the EarPods are included as a standard item on the latest products. Apple could have easily sold them as an upgrade.

Angry Birds hasn't been updated for the taller screen, so it's displayed with letterbox black bands to the left and right in landscape mode.

The Lightning connector

The iPhone 5's Lightning connector has generated some angst among Apple fans, who are annoyed they'll need an adapter to get the new device working with older peripherals. But the connector is brilliantly designed. It's reversible, meaning it doesn't require a specific direction to be plugged in -- unlike USB. That guarantees a good connection the first time, every time. The design, like many of Apple's flourishes, seems simple, obvious, and inevitable. (Why is it that Apple is usually first in this department?)

The result, of course, is that older Dock products will not work with the new iPhone. Apple sells an adapter (available next month for $29) that may work, but that depends entirely on what the peripheral is and does. Having to buy an extra accessory has disappointed some people, but Apple innovates and the world keeps on ticking. Third-party Lightning support is a high priority for many companies, so early-adopters issues should subside soon.

Networking and LTE

Like last year's model, the iPhone supports HSPA, HSPA+, and DC-HSDPA on its auto-switching antenna design; like the iPhone 4S, you cannot hold this device wrong and block the data signal.

 

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