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Banned reviewer: iPhone 5 just works

John Davidson, AFR | Sept. 25, 2012
The folks at Apple really do believe in the Apple mantra, “It just works.”

Despite its embarrassing shortcomings, 3D "flyover" mode is actually pretty awesome, and already a good way to get a real sense of what a neighbourhood looks like from a helicopter. (Or, at least, what it would look like if the houses were made of plasticine and had spent five minutes under a hair dryer.)

The same goes for the route guidance. Yes, Apple's Maps can find far fewer locations than Google Maps, and yes, in our tests it had a nasty habit of routing us to locations via the worst obvious route, but it does look pretty, and it is easy to use, and that counts for something. We especially liked the way it shows alternate (even worse!) routes in a slightly different colour, and makes it easy to select the (worse) route just by touching it.

When the fairly critical issues of map accuracy and completeness are ironed out weeks, months or years from now, Apple's Maps will provide some stiff competition for Google Maps. In the meantime, it's easy enough to create a link to the Google Maps website on the iPhone's homescreen - Safari, the iPhone's browser, makes the process simple - so you can rely on Google when you actually need to get somewhere, and on Apple when you want to look at the awesome 3D pictures.

From a hardware perspective, the iPhone 5 does just work, mostly in the way the mantra is meant to mean.

The screen is just big enough not to feel cramped, which arguably is the proper design for something you store in your pocket: as small as you can sensibly get away with. In any case, together with the iPhone 4S it's the sharpest screen around and that mostly makes up for it not being the biggest screen around.

Speaking of sharp, the new eight megapixel camera on the iPhone 5 is sharper than the old eight megapixel camera on the iPhone 4S, though not by as much as we were hoping.

On the other hand, the new Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile internet connection on the iPhone 5 works just the way we were hoping: quickly. In various tests of the iPhone 5 on the Telstra and Optus networks (banned by Apple, we turned to the telcos for review units), we got average download speeds ranging from six megabits per second to 31 Mbps on Telstra, and 10 Mbps to 32 Mbps on Optus' newer, presumably less-congested network.

In terms of hardware, it's as good as anything on the market, and then some, perhaps, even despite its lack of exciting new features such as Near Field Communication and wireless charging.

From a software perspective, well it's not quite as good. It doesn't just work. But just wait. It just might.



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