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iPhone 5 Review: Apple’s Back!… Back Of The Line That Is

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When Apple released their latest iPhone 5, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one being that my iPhone 4 was beginning to feel ancient. However just like other people, I was somewhat undecided between the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S3.

iPhone 5 review

When you pit the iPhone 5 against the iPhone 4 or 4S the newer model is better in terms of speed (both processor and data), and that gorgeous display. However when compared alongside the Samsung Galaxy S3, the iPhone 5 qualities I mentioned above dissipate. In fact, the iPhone 5 despite all its upgrades boasts battery life below that of the iPhone 4S in real world usage (8 hours), and its softer aluminum shell makes you wonder how Apple’s ditching of the glass case could have backfired like this. The Samsung Galaxy S3 boasts improved battery life over the S2, clocking in 3 extra hours (15 hours). Standby time is also vastly different, with the S3 boasting 400 hours and the iPhone 5 around 225 hours.

One of the biggest changes is the Lightning port which replaces the old connector. This means that if you want to use older accessories you will have to part with $30 for an adapter. The new iPhone 5 charges faster than the old versions which is a huge plus and the new earphones that come with the handset are way better than any others from Apple. I did run into an issue with my Sony sound dock though because even with the adapter, the odd shape of the landing pad wouldn’t allow me to utilize it with the iPhone 5. This suddenly meant that a number of my iPhone accessories and cables lying around were obsolete and I was ready to start from scratch again with Apple accessories (or Android).

Now before you think I am disappointed with the iPhone 5, that is far from it. The iPhone 5 is lighter than the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the A6 processor in the iPhone 5 beat the dual core 1.5GHz Snapdragon in benchmark tests when compared to the S3 running ICS. So you’re not getting outdated hardware here. The 4-inch display has been a long-time coming and while I hoped it was slightly larger, the fact that you could still operate it with one hand made up for that.

Another area where it excels is design. It maintains that industrial design that we love so much with a couple of touches that make it look “2012” and ergonomically perfect despite the extra height.

While the Samsung Galaxy S3 packs 2GB of RAM versus 1GB on the iPhone 5, browsing through the two different OS’ and launching multiple apps showed that it didn’t really make a difference. The same could be said about the camera and LTE speeds with both devices.

The iPhone 5 does not have support for SD card, while the Samsung Galaxy S3 does, up to 64GB. This means that you can get the cheapest 16GB version and put in a $50 64GB SD card and end up with 80GB in total. The aluminum body on the iPhone 5 is prone to scratching too and I’ve had our review unit covered from day one after one our first unit arrived scuffed right out of the box. That being said, it looks better than the plastic-fantastic Samsung Galaxy S3 even with a cover on.

Many people will say that the new iPhone 5 has taken a step backwards rather than forwards. However one thing in the favour of Apple is that their customer service is excellent and problems are generally worked out with very little fuss. They are quick to fire out software updates to squash any bugs should they become apparent on a wide scale and the Apple Store is nice enough to help you with hardware defects should you need a replacement.

I’ll admit that the new iPhone 5 hasn’t got the magic of the original iPhone when that was released, or even the sparkle when the iPhone 3GS was updated to the iPhone 4. However because I have gotten so comfortable with iOS, the iPhone 5 seems like the ideal upgrade.

Maybe we now expect too much from Apple and this is the reason why its seems as though they have lost their mojo. Samsung and other competitors have caught up with them in terms of innovation and things have changed in the tech world since 2007 when Apple released the first iPhone as something truly revolutionary. The iPhone 5 hasn’t really changed that much and there are no new innovations from Apple when you look at what’s already out there. The great design is actually very close to the iPhone 4 from 2 years ago, and the introduction of LTE, a larger display and other features have been available on other smartphones since 2011.

If you have an iPhone 4 and are due for an upgrade as I am, the iPhone 5 is a good bet. But in the past 5 years of iPhone ownership, I have never come so close to jumping on an Android device as today. Whether that is Apple faltering or the Samsung Galaxy S3 just having hit the right spot is unclear.

I will be upgrading from my iPhone 4 in the start of November and at this point, the S3 does look tempting enough for me to endure the Android learning curve.

Mike is the man who reviews gadgets that aren’t mainstream or products that can’t exactly be classified as consumer electronics e.g. portable talking toilets. It’s always interesting to read about the crazy products we have here in Asia that just don’t get as much publicity as they warrant.