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An iPhone 5 Review

The early reviews of the iPhone 5 came out last night and they’re glowing—no previous model has received higher praise from Apple's handpicked reviewers than this one. Phrases like “flat-out lovely” and “absolute home run” are fit to run as testimonials in an Apple commercial.

Overall, the only true thumbs down from this first set of reviewers went to an accessory and a software feature: the $29 adapter that users will have to buy if they want to connect the iPhone 5 to accessories like their current speaker docks; and Apple’s new maps application that replaces Google Maps, but even that wasn’t exactly panned–it’s just not as good as Google’s app, they wrote.
Here’s a snapshot of what the reviews say:
What a difference an ounce makes: The reviewers all seemed to be surprised at how light the iPhone 5 is compared with its predecessor. CNET’s Scott Stein said he was “shocked” and “weirded out” by how “feather light” the 3.95-ounce phone is, while TechCrunch’s MG Siegler said it just “doesn’t seem real.”
Screen Size
The taller screen, which measures 4 inches diagonally instead of the previous 3.5 inches, fits an extra row of icons. The reviewers agreed that the bigger screen is better for viewing documents and movies and Web surfing, though they differed on its usability. WSJ’s Walt Mossbergsaid the larger screen makes the iPhone “easier to hold and manipulate than its larger rivals” and is comfortable to use one-handed, while CNET’s Stein calls it “a little more of a two-hander.”
While the rear-facing camera still has an 8-megapixel sensor, Apple boasted that it can now shoot pictures in low light. Says the New York Times’ David Pogue: “Its lowlight shots blow away the same efforts from an iPhone 4S.” CNET’s Stein said the low-light shots are “more coherent” but granier “than the wonderfully detailed images taken in bright, direct light.” Engadget’s Tim Stevensnoted the speed has improved: “Tap that big ol’ thum as quick as you can and the iPhone 5 will keep up, whereas the iPhone 4S eventually fell behind.” The reviewers were also impressed with the rear-facing camera, which got an upgrade to 1.2 megapixels.
Apple says the new battery will last for 8 hours of talking on 3G networks or talking and browsing on LTE networks, and 10 hours of Wi-Fi browsing. While none of the reviewers had time to put the iPhone 5 through a rigorous battery test, they did come up with some different results. Engadget’s Stevens managed 14 hours “in a day of heavy usage with LTE, GPS and WiFi all enabled.” WSJ’s Mossberg said the battery lasted between 9 and 12 hours with mixed use. But they all generally agreed that the iPhone 5 has better battery life than the 4S.
Wireless Connection
Just like Apple did, the reviewers touted the fact that the iPhone 5 can connect to faster fourth-generation LTE networks. When connected, WSJ’s Mossberg said “data downloads and uploads just fly.” Bloomberg’s Rich Jaroslovskycalled it “roaringly fast,” while TechCrunch’s Siegler says “LTE is so fast that it’s faster than my home WiFi.” But there’s a big caveat, of course. Much of the nation’s population isn’t covered by LTE networksAT&T's LTE network, for instance, currently covers about 74 million people.
The $29 Lightning Adapter
It likely will be the biggest complaint of the new phone. The iPhone 5 sports a redesigned plug for cords that connect the device to electrical outlets or home computers. To connect to say, speakers, you’ll need a $29 adapter. The reviewers didn’t go easy on Apple. “If you have a few accessories, you could easily pay $150 in adapters for a $200 phone,” wrote the Times’ Pogue. “That’s not just a slap in the face to loyal customers — it’s a jab in the eye.” CNET’s Stein said that Apple “could have sweetened the deal by at least offering faster sync speeds, or a free 30-pin adapter.”
A few of the reviewers noticed the phone would heat up when using it for long sessions. It’s not a surprise given the thinner package contains more powerful features, but worth keeping an eye if consumers believe it becomes overheated like what happened with the iPhone 4. Says NET’s Stein: “ ran warm, especially when using 4G LTE instead of Wi-Fi. After a 20-minute FaceTime call over LTE, the metal back became very warm, but not hot.” Bloomberg’s Rich Jaroslovsky said the rear “grew noticeably hot when the GPS system was in use for an extended period.”
Bottom Line
Walt Mossberg, WSJ:“Apple has taken an already great product and made it better, overall. Consumers who prefer huge screens or certain marginal features have plenty of other choices, but the iPhone 5 is an excellent choice.”
Scott Stein, CNET: “The iPhone 5 completely rebuilds the iPhone on a framework of new features and design, addressing its major previous shortcomings. It’s absolutely the best iPhone to date, and it easily secures its place in the top tier of the smartphone universe.”
Tim Stevens: Engadget:“Will it wow you? Hold it in your hand — you might be surprised. For the iOS faithful this is a no-brainer upgrade. This is without a doubt the best iPhone yet. This is a hallmark of design. This is the one you’ve been waiting for.”
David Pogue, New York Times:“If you have an iPhone 4S, getting an iPhone 5 would mean breaking your two-year carrier contract and paying a painful penalty; maybe not worth it for the 5’s collection of nips and tucks. But if you’ve had the discipline to sit out a couple of iPhone generations — wow, are you in for a treat.”
 Rich Jaroslovsky, Bloomberg: The iPhone 5 is by no means perfect, and we’re lucky there are a lot of really good smartphones on the market. But only one great one.”
 MG Siegler, TechCrunch: “The iPhone 5 is the culmination of Apple doing what Apple does best. This is the smartphone nearly perfected.”
 Jim Dalrymple, The Loop:“The iPhone is everything Apple said it would be and with iOS 6 built-in, it’s clear to me that Apple has another winner on its hands. I can’t think of any good reason why anyone wouldn’t upgrade or purchase the iPhone 5.”
Shane Richmond, Telegraph:“The iPhone 5 is a great smartphone made even better. It’s fast, lightweight and backed by the largest application store for any device. It’s also probably the most beautiful smartphone anyone has ever made.”
Edward C. Baig, USA Today:“The iPhone 5 is a winner that should keep Apple at the front of the smartphone pack. But choosing iPhone 5 vs. a top-of-the line Android alternative isn’t a cut-and-dried decision, especially if you’re partial to a jumbo display, such as the one on the big, bold and beautiful Samsung Galaxy S III, an Android rival for which I’ve had high praise.”

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