Apple iPhone 5 review

On September 12th, the new 6th Apple iPhone was announced, reportedly the last one to which the late Steve Jobs worked. Already on September 28th the device was in store in the Netherlands.

However, Fanboys picked up the device a week earlier in Germany. Partly due to the large stream of Dutch people this led in some cases to chaotic scenes.

Apple calls the iPhone 5 "the greatest development ... since the iPhone". This of course refers to the larger screen. Now they are in Cupertino of big talk, so it's time to see what we think of the iPhone 5. We could not recommend the iPhone 4 and the 4S. The 4 not because of its antenna design flaw, and the 4S because it was a too small update. What about the 5? Can this iPhone finally count on our approval again? Not that Apple cares at all, after all there will be enough of them sold again. But that doesn't make our judgement any less interesting, partly because we are not an Apple fan site that preaches praise and homage no matter what the company presents.

iPhone 5 next to the iPhone 4

We tested the iPhone 5 in black and in the 16 GB version with iOS version 6.0.1. Competitors for this iPhone are the LG Optimus G, the HTC One X+ and of course the Samsung Galaxy S III. Which one is better? Our thanks to Smartphoneshop who made this Apple iPhone 5 Black 16 GB available.

What's with the device?

A compliment to Apple; once again they managed to make the packaging even smaller. The content is a bit sparse for that price; a plug, cable, headphones and telephone. We are talking about the new EarPods with built-in controls. They are quite comfortable, and they produce above average sound. Furthermore, there is some documentation and a pin to place the SIM card.


We get phones in at the editors more often and the first thought when we took the iPhone 5 out of the box was: "Is the battery in there? Of course it's in there, you can't take it out. But you can't blame us, the "5" is remarkably light. It weighs almost 30 grams less than its predecessor, or in other words: 20 percent lighter. That's quite a lot.

What is also immediately noticeable is the larger screen. The iPhone has gone from 3.5 to 4 inches and that makes for a crazy face in the beginning. We know the iPhone no different than with that ieniemienie screen that seemed to get smaller every year. Stretching it up to 4 inches results in a strange ratio, which also makes the iPhone very narrow. Now the iPhone is as wide as the 4S, so it's a facial deception. Furthermore, almost nothing has changed at the front. Yes, the camera is above the speaker.

The back has more differences. First of all, the Apple logo is no longer silvery in appearance, but dark in colour. By the way, the back is no longer made of extremely fragile glass, but of aluminium. Hats off to that. Yet not the whole back is made of aluminium. Both the top and the bottom are partly made of glass. We wouldn't have needed that, but it's probably necessary for some antennas to see the outside world. At the top left is still the camera with the flash on the right. In between there is a hole that serves as a secondary camera. It helps you to filter out ambient noise when you are making a phone call.


As far as we're concerned, the sides are the most beautiful sides of the iPhone 5. The metal strip has remained, but the glass of the front and back no longer sticks out, creating a beautiful compact phone. Moreover, this strip is no longer silver aluminum but dark in color. The same 'stripes' as the iPhone 4S are still there, but are only visible after studying them. On the right is the opening for the SIM card. This time of the nanoSIM type and therefore even smaller than before. You'll have to arrange a new SIM card if you want to be able to call with your new iPhone, or even activate it. The left side has as before the volume buttons and the mute button. On top is the on/off button that also acts as a snooze button. All buttons seem to take a little more force to press than their predecessors.


The underside may still have undergone the most transformation. It now accommodates the audio jacket that until recently was always at the top. Further different is the microphone (left) and loudspeaker grill (right). The connector in the middle is the new Lightning connector. It is a smaller connector than the old familiar 30-pin connector. Advantage now is that it doesn't matter how you put the connector in anymore. And how small the connector is, that is how big the controversy around the cable is. A lot of people have saved up accessories and cables that now all don't work anymore in one fell swoop. That is indeed regrettable, but inevitable. We take Apple's side in this case. Progress means that from time to time you have to give up old techniques. Apple dares to do that and that's not the first time. Think for example of the MagSafe connector or the Mini DisplayPort. What's more, other companies are doing the same thing all the time. Think Nokia, which switched to microUSB. It is to be welcomed when companies dare to make these kinds of decisions. We also laugh at any manufacturer that still dares to make notebooks with a VGA port. What is only culpable is that Apple is asking the top prize for the small cable. Los it costs 20 euros and an adapter costs 30 euros. You don't tell us that's the cost price, with a small profit margin on top of that. As far as we are concerned, Apple is completely off the mark with this, because you want everyone to be able to switch effortlessly to this new architecture. That's how you prevent it.

iPhone5 paint chipping

We read stories that the aluminum back can scratch. For those people who are afraid of that; aluminium, just like all other types of metal, can scratch in gradient. That's nothing new. Something we do worry about is the lacquer between the antenna and the front and back. It lets go as it goes. We got a relatively new iPhone at our disposal and a lot of lacquer had come loose. If you still want a brand new phone, there is nothing else to do but use a case. This also protects the glass ends. In our case there was already a hairline crack in it.


Because we always test phones for at least a week, we always know how the battery is doing afterwards. And the iPhone 4S lasted another day, the iPhone 5 is doing a lot better. We can easily get one day, and with moderate use you can easily get both. Even with the larger screen, the estimated 1,440 mah large battery impresses us.


There are not many changes compared to iOS 5 that you can use to increase stamina. Of course, there's the screen brightness, the ability to turn off location features as much as possible, and the ability to use Fetch accounts as little as possible.

Call quality

It would be silly to say that you can also call on the iPhone 5. Of course you can, and quite well. We even found something better than its predecessor. Since the iPhone 4S, the device is no longer sensitive for a 'deathgrip' and in general we had range everywhere. And no less than we normally have.


Strange is the new call menu, also called dailer. It looks like all styling has been taken off the screen. Buttons are gray and look almost too simple. It must be a matter of taste. What we do like are the new functions you have when you get a call. You can either reject calls by texting or ignore them and remember to call that person back later.


New in iOS 6 is the 'don't disturb' function. Once switched on, all incoming calls are kept silent, except when the caller is in a certain group. For example, you can create a 'Family' group so that incoming calls from certain people can be heard. There is an option that allows repeated calls from the same person to be received at any given time. If someone really wants to reach you. You can even set a certain time when you won't be disturbed.


Apple's own way of calling has also changed; FaceTime. Not the way you work, but that from now on you can also use it via your mobile network.


Let's face it, the biggest reason to buy (or switch to) an iPhone 5 is the bigger screen. And it's also quite a big thing for Apple to tinker with the screen size. Apple couldn't help it though, the old 3.5 inch was really too small. Well, 4 inches isn't really big either, but it does make a big difference. So pay tribute to Apple to see this and to change it. Problem now is that the screen is very narrow. It is not narrower than the iPhone 4S but it feels narrower because the proportions are so strange now. Just like before, pressing buttons was often next to it. The back button of Facebook for example. Maybe it's a matter of getting used to it.

Still, the iPhone's screen is a beauty. Apple has managed to take a layer out of it, making the screen even closer to the surface. As a result, the viewing angle is enormous, the colour fastness above average and the sharpness is as good as ever. Outside, the screen is also more than easy to read. Only the contrast remains behind with AMOLED, but that technique has completely different problems. In the end we would choose this screen today.

A disadvantage of this larger screen is that developers have to get their applications to use these extra pixels. This doesn't cost a lot of work, as long as it's not a game. Still, we found that there were surprisingly few apps that made use of this extra space. You get to see the old app that is aligned in the middle of the screen. We immediately adapted our iPhone app and offered it to the App Store.


The menu has not been tampered with. Why should Apple? It's working. That's why, in order to fill a chapter, we'll discuss some new features of iOS. New, for example, is the closer Facebook integration. From many applications you can now directly post a message on the social network service. But also birthdays of friends and other activities are included in your calendar.


Another change is improved accessibility. People with disabilities, whether by sight or hearing, can now easily control an iPhone. For example, VoiceOver speaks everything you click, hearing aids can be paired, and guided access is available. So you can stay in the same app and even disable features. That's great for letting your kids play with your iPhone without doing anything they don't want to do. Call your boss to resign, for example.


By the way, the older the iPhone gets, the more complicated the menu becomes. There are so many functions added to each iOS version that it sometimes gets a bit confusing. Do you own an iPhone and you think this is nonsense? Then look up where to turn GPS off, how to turn off roaming or how to manually set the pick-up schedule for a single account. You're just searching.


The integration with Facebook and Twitter can also be found in the phone book. Contacts are neatly merged and can also be merged themselves if desired.


What's new is that when apps want to consult your phonebook you have to give permission to do so. Previously, apps did that without you noticing it, but that has now been stopped.


In addition to texting, MMS, Apple also has its own messaging service called iMessage. The service has been plagued by outages in recent years. The great thing about it is that you don't know whether you're using iMessage or regular texting. It blends seamlessly into each other. You start writing a message, and iOS checks to see if the receiver supports iMessage and then uses it.


In the email app there is now an extra possibility to create a VIP list. In this list you can put people who you think are just a little bit more important than others, which creates more overview. The idea is nice but as far as we are concerned it is a bit superfluous. More convenient is that you can easily add an image to an email. Previously you had to go to the picture first, long print and choose copy. Then you could go back to your email and paste it. Now you can long print inside the email and you get an arrow to the right where you can directly add a photo or video.



Apple commends iPhone 5 for being the first LTE-enabled iPhone. Of course, that's nice, but we don't (yet) have any use for it in the Netherlands. There are no operators here that offer 4G LTE for consumers. What you can use is the dual-band 802.11n support. If you have a compatible WiFi router with N support at home, you can surf the Internet at lightning speed. And fair is fair, that's right. Not only is the Internet significantly faster, but somehow the iPhone 5 finds the N-band more often than other smartphones, so you can surf the Internet at maximum speed more often.


Also new is the photo stream that lets you share photos across multiple iOS devices or Mac computers via iCloud. Android users have known it for a long time when they use Dropbox. Another addition to iCloud is the ability to sync tabs between your iPhone, iPad, and Mac. The web page you read on the train can continue reading on your iPad at home. At least that's the idea. We use Chrome at home, so that kite doesn't go on. If you use Safari against your better judgment, it works great.



The camera does not seem to have changed at first glance; an 8 megapixel one with flash and a maximum aperture value of f/2.4. Appearances are deceptive, enough has changed anyway. For example, the protective glass is now of the more scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. In addition, the new sensor is more light-sensitive and features Backside Illumination. As a result, Apple believes that the camera is worthy of the term 'iSight'. He will be proud.

Still, it's not just tribute and Hosanna. There are stories going around of a strange purple haze on pictures. Especially when photographed close to a light source. However, this is a normal phenomenon that all cameras have to deal with; lens flare. The color may want to differ a bit, but it is not new. Still, the iPhone 5 seems to suffer from it a bit more often than the 4S, maybe this is due to the sapphire crystal, but it is strange. We didn't always get it, but sometimes in strange places.


The wonderfully simple camera interface has been added; panorama. Once selected, you have to move to the right in portrait position. The iPhone then glues the images together itself. The result is a ridiculously large image, but the advantage is that the quality is incredibly high. Make sure you have enough light, so not indoors. Also the video mode has an extra function; during filming you can also shoot photos. Little else has changed.

Photos shot with iPhone 5

Existing programs

The biggest change to the standard app arsenal is Apple's own Maps that will replace Google Maps. The latter is also nowhere to be found, so you don't have a choice. Apple calls Maps itself "a new path to be taken". As far as we're concerned, it's just the wrong way to go. We already said it in our preview of iOS 6; there is no Street View, maps are far from detailed and the quality of satellite images at street level is unusable. It's simply not an improvement. Apple agrees and has apologized and fired people. We recommend Nokia Here.


Another new app is Passbook. The idea is pretty good. Loyalty cards, coupons and admission tickets can be stored digitally in one place. Now there are still companies and apps that use them. Because there aren't that many yet. And certainly not in the Netherlands. So it's no use to you yet.


In addition, some minor changes have been made to existing apps. For example, you now have a weekly overview if you run the iPhone a quarter turn in the Calendar app. Other apps just got a different layout, the App Store for example. It's all minimal. That's not a bad thing because these standard apps were already very good.


The iPhone has a standard Game Center in which scores of games are kept. It must be a social thing because you can also add friends and compare high scores. We still have to find the first people who actually use it. In the end, it's better to just download and play games from the App Store, free or not.


Unfortunately, not many games have been made suitable for the larger screen of the iPhone 5 yet. If you like the games, this will be a disadvantage because these games can't be converted as easily as regular apps.



The best way to judge a phone is how bad you feel about returning it. On the iPhone 5, that's pretty big. It's a nice phone, though. It's small, especially if you're used to smartphones with screens between 4.3 and 4.8 inches. Apple wants us to talk about compact. However, if you come from an iPhone 4(S) then you'll appreciate the larger screen, but we also got along reasonably well with it. Although the screen remains very narrow. For people with eyesight problems (wearing glasses or tired eyes) it is not recommended.

Apple has sworn loyalty to 3.5 inches for years, even when it couldn't do it anymore. That's why we really appreciate the change to 4 inches. It will be the standard for years to come. Don't expect big differences in looks with the iPhone 5S. The changes there will mainly be in iOS. It all looks a bit dated. Since 2007 it hasn't been tinkered with much, and what has been added sometimes looks a bit out of date. The 'Find friends' app for example. We're looking forward to what designer Jony Ive comes up with for a new interface.

In the end, we can definitely recommend the iPhone 5. Even for the current iPhone 4S, it is still worth considering, partly because of the larger screen. In today's landscape of super-smartphones, the iPhone 5 is a small, compact phone. Especially because 5 inch Full HD phones will become the norm in 2013. The iPhone 5 is fast, does what it promises, there is a huge range of apps and has a fairly contemporary screen size. The only question is whether you have that much money for it. All that remains is to reluctantly return the Apple iPhone 5 to the people at Smartphoneshop.

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