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Apple iPhone 5 - The World’s Best Smartphone? (Part 1)

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Thin, fast, tall and beautiful update to the world’s best smartphone

While it’s easy to get carried away by the queues, high-fiving Apple employees and endless hype, it’s worth taking a deep breath, standing back, and taking a good look at what’s on offer. So this is the Apple iPhone 5: gloss, shine, warts and all.

Let’s start with the facts: the iPhone 5 starts at US$793.5 in the UK for a 16GB model, with 32GB (US$898.5) and 64GB (US$1048.5) options also available. Apple offers two colour options: black and white.

Description: Let’s start with the facts: the iPhone 5 starts at US$793.5 in the UK for a 16GB model, with 32GB (US$898.5) and 64GB (US$1048.5) options also available.

Let’s start with the facts: the iPhone 5 starts at US$793.5 in the UK for a 16GB model, with 32GB (US$898.5) and 64GB (US$1048.5) options also available.

This is the sixth generation of iPhone that Apple has made; its predecessor the iPhone 4S was previously sold for US$748.5, but is now available for US$673.5. The iPhone 4 in turn drops down to replace the 3GS as Apple’s entry-level model at a very respectable US$478.5.

Note that these prices are all for an unlocked model, and you’ll need to purchase a nano-SIM card with call, text and internet allowance separately. Most carriers will also be selling the iPhone 5 on contract with different up-front payment and monthly rate.

Inside the iPhone 5

Notable new technology in the iPhone 5 includes a larger 4in display, 4G LTE connectivity, a new A6 processor, a better camera and an HD front-facing iSight camera.

The design has had a refresh and is now a black or white anodised aluminium rear, instead of glass. The touchscreen technology is integrated on a single layer on the front of the glass, and it’s lighter and thinner than before (although the screen size makes it taller). Apple claims that battery life matches or even exceeds that of the iPhone 4S, but out tests found it was slightly worse.

Description: A better camera and an HD front-facing iSight camera.

A better camera and an HD front-facing iSight camera.

There’s a new dock connector called Lightning, which replaces the 30-pin Dock connector that has been present on almost every iPhone, iPad and iPod since the dawn of time (er... 2001). This is a pretty fundamental change that carries positives and negatives, depending on your circumstances.

4in retina display

The iPhone 5 has a taller 4in display in a 16:9 ratio. This is the same ratio as most high- definition televisions. In essence, Apple has made the screen taller but no wider, which makes a lot of sense: apps can be redesigned for the larger screen, or stay in their current size with black borders at the top or bottom, which doesn’t look as bad as you’d imagine.

Description: If Apple had just made the screen bigger, apps would be stretched at the expense of PPI (pixels per inch).

If Apple had just made the screen bigger, apps would be stretched at the expense of PPI (pixels per inch).

If Apple had just made the screen bigger, apps would be stretched at the expense of PPI (pixels per inch). This manages to keep all the apps looking at their best, while giving developers the option to expand them. It also enables Apple to keep the form factor down.

What it doesn’t do is offer any of the other advantages of a wider screen, most notably the key advantage of a wider keyboard that’s slightly easier to type on, and larger-form text. In fact, most apps look exactly the same - even when optimised for the new display.

When you’re holding the iPhone vertically (which you do most of the time), it’s hard to see any real gain with the slightly taller screen. You get an extra row of apps on the Home screen, and many list-based apps (like newsfeeds) can pack in an extra story or two. It is better, but it’s certainly not in the same league as the jump to Retina Display introduced on the iPhone 4.

Turn the iPhone 5 on its side, though, and things start to make a bit more sense. Movies in particular look much better when displayed full-screen in a 16:9 ratio. There aren’t many truly amazing games that have been resized at the moment, but the ones that do fit the full screen look pretty special.

So the screen is better for movies and games, which are the key areas where you want a device to focus visually.

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